Dry Eye: The Most Common Cause of Ocular Irritation

Both Drs. Cavanaugh and Jaynes have an emphasis in dry eye treatment, offering a wide range of management options

Dry Eye Definition

“Dry Eye Syndrome” is a general term used to describe a group of conditions that cause inflammation of the surface of your eyes due to disruption of your eyes’ tear film. Your tear film has a very specific and unique recipe of mucous, water, and lipids that have vision, anti-inflammatory and comfort properties. Dry Eye Syndrome is chronic and tear film changes caused by dry eye can result in a variety of symptoms.
Classically, the term Dry Eye Syndrome is used when your eyes are not producing enough tears. This leads to an imbalance in your tear chemistry with resultant inflammation on the front surface of your eyes. Meibomitis is a secondary cause of Dry Eye Syndrome. Meibomitis causes inflammation of the oil glands in your lids. This inflammation causes clogging of the oil glands and results in an environment for bacteria to grow inside the oil gland. The combination of thickened oils and excessive bacteria results in an unstable tear film leading to Dry Eye Syndrome as well as other symptoms.

What Causes Dry Eye?

The following factors can cause or worsen Dry Eye Syndrome and/or Meibomitis:

  • Aging
  • Reading or spending time on the computer
  • Hormonal changes like menopause
  • Medications such as antihistamines, decongestants and antidepressants
  • Certain eye surgeries such as cataract or refractive surgery
  • Environmental conditions such as wind or dry climates
  • Various medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or thyroid problems
  • Poor eyelid function
  • Nutritional deficiencies

The Most Common Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome and Meibomitis are:

  • Fluctuating vision
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Excessive tearing
  • Tired eyes
  • Irritation
  • Blurred vision
  • Grittiness
  • Scratchiness

Types of Dry Eye: All Dry Eye is NOT the Same

Most patients have BOTH Dry Eye Syndrome and Meibomitis. Treatment is tailored to your clinical exam, symptoms, and unique health history / patient profile. Recall that Dry Eye Syndrome and Meibomitis are chronic and there is no cure for these conditions. The goal of treatment is to control your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

Dry Eye Treatment

There are several treatments available. These range from simple lifestyle modification, artificial tears, to prescription medications depending on the severity of the condition. Artificial tears, which lubricate the eye, are commonly used to treat dry eye. Additional environmental precautions that help with dry eye include:

  • Avoiding outside windy and dry conditions
  • Using room humidifiers
  • Wearing wrap-around glasses when outside
  • Avoiding cigarette smoke

Punctal Occlusion has been used successfully for years in the treatment of DES. It is performed by placing small plugs in the tear drains in the eyelid. There are 4 drains total, one in each eyelid. This helps by preventing the tears from draining into the nose and thus keeping them on the eye.

In addition, prescribed medical treatment with anti-inflammatory medications, such as topical steroids or cyclosporine (Restasis), may lessen the chances that dry eye will progress to a more severe form. Restasis is an excellent new medication for the treatment of DES. It is speculated that chronic inflammation leads to decreased tear film production and eye irritation. Restasis acts to decrease the inflammation on the surface of the eye and help your body to produce better tears.


Other dietary supplements such as flax seed oil or Omega-3 fish oil will promote better quality tear film and may reduce the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome / Meibomitis.

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Cavanaugh Eye Center

Phone: (913) 897-9200

6200 W 135th St
Ste 300

Overland Park, KS 66223


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