Patients often think that dry eye is a normal condition to experience. Numerous over-the-counter eye drops promise to relieve dry eye, leading patients to think it’s not a matter for their eye doctors. In fact, 60% to 70% of the patients in my practice have dry eye symptoms, yet many have not thought to seek professional treatment.

Bridgitte Shen Lee, OD, the founder and CEO of Vision Optique in Houston and iTravelCE, writes and lectures on digital eye health, dry eye disease, anti-aging eyecare, healthcare social media, and aesthetic optometry. Shen Lee is one of the TFOS (Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society) global ambassadors representing the U.S. She is one of 19,000 doctors listed on the Think About Your Eyes doctor locator. First Vision Media Group is a media partner of Think About Your Eyes.

Increased amounts of screen time play a big part in dry eye, meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), and other symptoms of digital eye strain. We ask our patients about screen habits in order to “connect the dots”—that is, to help them understand there are solutions to prevent and relieve both dry eye and symptoms of digital eye strain. In addition to increased digital screen time, other common causes of dry eye symptoms in healthy patients include ingredients in eye makeup ingredients, application of eyeliner across the lid margin, eyelash extensions, frequent air travel, contact lens wear, LASIK and dehydration.

MGD, the leading cause of dry eye symptoms, occurs due to blockage or atrophy of the sebaceous glands at the edge of the upper and lower eyelids. These glands secrete the meibum (oil or lipid) that protects the natural tear from evaporating and stabilizes the tear film.

Top MGD symptoms are burning, watery eyes and foreign-body sensation. Other dry eye symptoms include eyes that are red and feel itchy, gritty and tired. Patients also experience blurry or fluctuating vision. Patients often think their symptoms are the result of allergies and treat these actual or alleged allergies with over-the-counter drops. Patients often complain about blurry vision without mentioning dry eye, assuming the two are unrelated.

During a patient’s routine eye exam, we discuss and review digital eye strain, dry eye, and MGD symptoms and prescribe vision correction solutions. We also perform meibomian gland imaging (via LipiView) on every patient aged 18 and older to identify MGD and to guide our treatment options. We schedule patients we identify as having dry eye or MGD for a separate medical eye exam.

We educate our patients on why we give them glasses with anti-fatigue and blue light/UV protections and prescribe the latest one-day modality contact lenses. We also give patients “homework.” Their assignment: Learn about the multifactorial and chronic nature of dry eye disease and treatment options. Vision Optique has a designated website section, YouTube playlist, and Facebook albums that use patient-friendly language and visual examples.

Dry eye disease affects patients’ vision and quality of life. Early detection and education should be a part of every patient’s annual eye exam.

Think About Your Eyes, the vision industry’s public awareness campaign, encourages patients to schedule an annual eye exam with their optometrists and promotes the importance of both vision and eye health. These annual exams give you the opportunity to diagnose symptoms of dry eye disease and educate your patients.


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