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Dry Eye Syndrome (cont.)

What Questions Should People Ask Their Doctor About Dry Eye Syndrome?

  • Is there a specific cause for my dry eyes?
  • What is the most effective treatment for my dry eyes?
  • Is there anything I can do to decrease the need for eyedrops or artificial tears?

What Exams and Tests Diagnose Dry Eye Syndrome?

Your eye doctor will take a thorough history of your eye and medical health, noting any conditions that might cause or worsen dry eyes.

During your eye examination, your eye doctor may perform the following tests.

  • The front of your eyes are examined using a special microscope called a slit lamp microscope.
    • The amount and thickness of the tear film is inspected.
    • The stability of the tear film is assessed by checking the tear break-up time (the time it takes for the tear layer to evaporate between blinks).
    • The conjunctiva and cornea are examined for signs of dryness using special dyes. The eyelids are checked for signs of meibomian gland dysfunction and for proper, complete blinking.
    • A complete eye exam may also reveal signs of an underlying medical condition that exacerbates the dry eye.
  • Different dyes may be used during your eye examination.
    • Fluorescein is a yellow dye that stains the dry cornea where the epithelial cells (ocular surface) have been worn away due to the lack of an adequate protective tear film.
    • Rose bengal is a red dye that stains the cornea and the conjunctiva where the cells are unhealthy due to chronic dryness. Lissamine green is a green dye that likewise can help differentiate between normal and abnormal ocular surface cells of the cornea and conjunctiva.
  • Schirmer tests measure the amount of tears produced by your eyes. In this test, your eye doctor places the end of a thin strip of filter paper just inside the lower eyelid. After a minute, the filter paper is removed, and the amount of wetting is measured. Less wetting of the filter paper is more indicative of DES.
  • The osmolarity (salt content) of the tears may be measured. If autoimmune diseases are suspected as a cause of DES, blood tests may be performed to look for markers of various autoimmune conditions.
  • Rarely, a biopsy may be taken (for example a biopsy of the conjunctiva to look for cicatricial pemphigoid).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/11/2017

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Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Dry Eye Syndrome »

Dry eye is a multifactorial disease of the tears and the ocular surface that results in symptoms of discomfort, visual disturbance, and tear film instability with potential damage to the ocular surface.

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