Dr. Stewart Shofner Explains Why Millions of People Have This Eye Disease And Many Don't Realize the Cause
Dr. Stewart Shofner treats patients with dry eye syndrome which is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults. Typically, people with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Although symptoms often start as minor inconveniences, the effects of dry eye can worsen over time, potentially leading to severe discomfort and even blurred vision.
"Many patients don't realize they have dry eye disease, as some of the common symptoms can be confused with other factors," says Dr. Shofner. "For example, there have been many studies to prove that people who work long hours on computers or mobile devices experience eye strain and blink significantly fewer times per minute/hour, causing dry eye. However, if the screen is dusty, they may think the dust is causing their allergies to flare-up."
Dry Eye Symptoms
People with dry eyes may experience symptoms of irritated, gritty, scratchy, or burning eyes, foreign body sensation (feeling of something in their eyes), and blurred vision. Dr. Shofner also explains, "Although it sounds odd, excessive watering is also a sign of dry eyes, and an imbalanced tear film. Many people assume that since their eyes are watering, they don't have dry eye disease."
Common Dry Eye Causes
An estimated 5 million people over the age of 50 experience dry eye symptoms thanks to the natural aging process, especially effecting those who have had LASIK surgery, cataract surgery, or trauma to the eye. Certain medications may reduce tear production, and medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes may produce inflammation of the eyelids. Additional factors may include long term use of contact lenses, continued exposure to smoke or pollution, and living or working in dry climate conditions.
Dry eyes can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination, evaluating the eyelids and cornea. Additional tests may be performed including Schirmer's, tear break-up time (TBUT) measurement, and ocular surface staining with rose bengal, lissamine green, or fluorescein dye to determine the severity of dry eye.
Dry Eye Treatments
There are several different types of treatments available for patients who suffer with mild to severe dry eye. For patients with mild dry eye, often over the counter eye drops such as Systane Balance or Refresh artificial tears which can be purchased just about anywhere. There are some specialty tears that are only sold at Physician's offices, such as OASIS tears. It's important to choose a tear brand for the quality, and upon recommendation by an Ophthalmologist. Sometimes a prescription medication can assist the body to create more natural tears, but some of these can be very costly to the patient, even with medical insurance.
For patients with moderate to severe dry eye there are other options available such as punctal plugs, or punctal occlusion. Plug insertion is completely reversible by removing the plug. Punctal occlusion cauterizes the tear ducts and offers patients a more permanent solution, lasting three months to several years. Dr. Shofner adds, "Punctal occlusion is one of the best tools we have available for treating dry eye; it's just that effective." Both procedures are covered by most medical insurances, as dry eye is considered a medical diagnosis.
Other sources of treatment for severe dry eye include milking the glands in the eyelids that produce tears in order to help the glands unclog, and secrete tears correctly. Since these procedures are not typically covered by insurance, they can become costly for patients.
About Shofner Vision Center
Shofner Vision Center provides comprehensive vision care services including LASIK/PRK vision correction, cataract surgery and evaporative dry eye treatment. Additionally, Renowned Eye Surgeon Dr. Shofner provides diagnosis and treatment for other vision issues.
Dr. Shofner has outstanding credentials to deliver the best care and surgical outcomes for patients. Shofner Vision Center utilizes the most advanced, proven technology to deliver the best solutions safely and reliably. Conveniently located in the heart of downtown Nashville, patients can schedule appointments online or call 615-340-4733.