Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition that occurs when tears fail to provide enough lubrication for the eyes. Different reasons can cause the tears to be unstable and inadequate. Tear instability can result in inflammation and damage to the eye surface.
Effective treatment for dry eye will depend on the underlying cause of the condition. To develop the proper treatment, the eye doctor will need to carry out a dry eye assessment. It is vital to understand the diagnosis of dry eye.
The most basic test for diagnosing dry eye is the Schirmer’s test. The eye doctor uses the test to determine if the eyes produce adequate tears for the desired moisture. The test involves placing a medical paper inside the lower lids.
The patient receives instructions to keep their eyes closed. The strip of paper will absorb tears, indicating the volume of water present in the tear film. Examining how far the tears travel on the paper in five minutes will reveal dryness.
TearLab testing determines tear osmolarity or tear saltiness. Low and stable osmolarity in both eyes indicates that the eyes are healthy and moist. Healthy tears have a balanced combination of water, oil, and salt. When tear quantity or quality is diminished, the osmolarity is high; as a result, the eye surface may become damaged. This causes dry eyes.
A TBUT test examines the time it takes for tears to evaporate or break up. If tears evaporate too fast, they cannot lubricate the eyes effectively, causing dry eyes. During testing, the eye doctor will touch the eye gently using sterilized blotting paper.
The paper has an orange fluorescein dye that spreads as the patient blinks, gently coating the tear film covering the cornea. Using a blue light, the doctor will see how the tears glow. They will track the evaporation.
The doctors use a phenol red thread test to determine if the tear's aqueous layer is diminished. The test helps evaluate the volume of the tears. A diminished aqueous layer can prevent tears from spreading adequately across the eye surface, causing dry eyes. The eye doctor uses a thin red string draped over the eyes to observe tear production in a few seconds.
Chronic dry eye results from meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD). Assessing the health of the meibomian glands is a vital part of dry eye diagnosis. A LipiScan® device is a diagnostic imaging tool that helps provide high-resolution images of the meibomian glands. The state-of-the-art device helps determine whether the glands are healthy, dilated, blocked, or atrophied. The imaging device also helps determine oil production from the glands.
Eye doctors can also use InflammaDry® testing to diagnose dry eye. This special diagnostic tool helps identify high protein levels in the lower lid lining. The eye doctor will determine the best tests to discover what is causing the dry eyes.
For more on the diagnosis of dry eye, contact Dry Eye Center of Alabama and Family Eye Care at our office in Homewood, Alabama. You can call (205) 490-2322 today to schedule an appointment.