Dry Eye

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition in which there is a deficiency in the quality and/or quantity of tears produced by the eyes. Tears perform many important functions for the eye including cleaning, lubrication, providing nutrition and maintaining a smooth surface to refract light and provide clear vision. A healthy tear film contains a complex balance of water, salts, mucin, and oils produced by glands on the eye and eyelids. If any of these components are out of balance, dry eye symptoms can occur.

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Typical symptoms of dry eye include dry or gritty sensation, scratchiness, itching, burning, pain, eyelid heaviness, intermittent blurred vision and intermittent tearing. Symptoms are usually worse later in the day, during prolonged use of the eyes, and in conditions of heat, wind and low humidity.

Many patients with dry eye syndrome complain of intermittent tearing and watery eyes. Normally the lids produce a small amount of tears to keep the eyes lubricated and healthy. If this baseline tearing is of poor quality or insufficient quantity to keep the eyes healthy, a message will be sent to the brain to cause a reflex flow of tears from the main lacrimal gland. This reflex tearing results in a large volume of watery tears that accumulate in the eye or even run down the cheek. These symptoms may seem counterintuitive, but to prevent the watering, one must treat the dryness that triggers it.

Eye Drops, Gels, Ointments, and Vitamins

Woman Putting in Eye Drops

Dry eye syndrome has a wide range of severity and in some instances may be sight threatening. Treatment initially begins with artificial lubricants, usually drops, given 2 to 6 times a day.

Artificial tears work best when given on a scheduled basis rather than in response to symptoms. After beginning therapy with artificial tears, it may take several weeks of continuous use before long lasting improvement in symptoms is achieved. Not all artificial tears are created equal. Many have preservatives that can cause further irritation, especially if used frequently. Preserved artificial tears may be used up to 4-6 times a day. Preservative-free artificial tears should be used for sensitive eyes or when more frequent use is required. More severe cases of dry eye may require the use of thicker ointments or gels. Hot compresses using a microwaveable heat mask may also be utilized to improve the function of the lubricating oil glands in the eyelids.

Consider supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids. Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can improve the tear quality and reduce dry eye symptoms. While omega-3 fatty acids can be found naturally in many food sources (i.e. wild salmon and herring), maximum benefits for adults are believed to be achieved with a daily dose of 2,000-4,000 mg. If you are not currently taking this supplement consider starting with 1,000 mg daily and work up to 2,000-4,000 mg per day.

Associated Eye Care offers a wide variety of drops, gels, ointments and vitamins for dry eye therapy. These are available for purchase in our optical shops as well as the AEC Online Marketplace.

 Dry Eye Brochure

Detecting Dry Eye

Successful treatment begins with understanding the root cause of your symptoms. At Associated Eye Care, we use specialized testing to accurately determine the cause of your dry eye and to develop a personalized treatment plan.

Meibography & Tear Film Imaging

Associated Eye Care is proud to offer a series of meibography and tear film imaging technologies including LipiView. These non-invasive diagnostic tests capture live images of your tear film and measure lipid content and quality. The meibomian (oil) glands of the eyelids are also imaged to assess their anatomy and function. These tests will allow your doctor to determine if you may benefit from LipiFlow treatment or other tear therapies.


TearLab is used to measure osmolarity, which is the saltiness of your tears. As osmolarity in your tears increase, ocular surface cells become damaged. Using the TearLab device, your doctor will take a sample of tears from each eye to assess the quality of your tear film and the overall health of your ocular surface. TearLab aids in accurate and early detection of dry eye syndrome and provides information to follow disease severity over time.


Dry eye syndrome causes inflammation which contributes to bothersome symptoms and damage to the ocular surface. In some cases, inflammation is present before a patient experiences any dry eye symptoms. InflammaDry is the first in-office test capable of detecting MMP-9, an inflammatory marker that is often elevated in the tears of patients with dry eye disease. By recognizing elevated levels of MMP-9, InflammaDry is able to identify patients that may be missed with other dry eye testing methods.

Slit Lamp Examination

Your doctor will perform a thorough slit lamp examination of the eyes and eyelids to assess for the presence and severity of dry eye. Special stains may be used to better visualize the tears and ocular surface during your exam. Additional exam tests may be utilized to better identify the cause and severity of your dry eye.

Treating Dry Eye


LipiFlow is a revolutionary treatment that is now available to patients who suffer from dry eye. With just a single treatment, LipiFlow may provide relief for over a year. LipiFlow delivers controlled heat to the inner layer of the eyelid and exerts gentle pressure to release lipids or oils from blocked meibomian glands. It treats both upper and lower eyelids at the same time, without causing damage to other delicate tissues and structures within the eye. The treatment takes only 12 minutes and is pain free. By unblocking the glands with this revolutionary thermal pulsation technology, the body can resume its natural production of oil and keep the eyes lubricated.

Punctal Occlusion

Tears normally drain off of the eye and into the nasal cavity through a hole, or punctum, in each upper and lower eyelid. Permanent or temporary plugs may be placed in these holes to retain tears on the surface of the eye for a longer period of time.

Autologous Serum Eye Drops

These are eye drops made from your own blood serum, which are rich in healing properties and nutrients. The serum from your blood is diluted with a sterile, preservative-free solution to produce eye drops that are unique to you.

Amniotic Membrane

Amniotic membrane is harvested from the lining of human placenta and used for a variety of ocular conditions due to its anti-inflammatory and healing properties. While temporarily positioned over the eye, it can result in rapid healing of the ocular surface.

Associated Eye Care is proud to be one of the first practices in the country to provide these exciting, new forms of treatment. In addition, your doctor may recommend other dry eye therapies, such as therapeutic contact lenses or other prescription medications, as part of your personalized treatment plan.

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Preparing for your Dry Eye Evaluation

At your dry eye evaluation, you will undergo specialized testing in order to create a personalized treatment plan. Because we use sensitive testing instruments to identify the root cause of your symptoms, please follow the instructions below to avoid any delays in your care:

We are proud to be a TearLab Accredited Dry Eye Center.

Affordable Financing

Get relief today, pay tomorrow. Associated Eye Care offers 0% financing for 6 months through CareCredit. CareCredit is a healthcare credit card that allows patients to finance medical procedures not fully covered by insurance.

Flex Spending?

Did you know you can use your flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) for dry eye treatment? Your flex dollars may expire at the end of the year. Use it before you lose it!

 Learn More About Dry Eye Disease

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