Dry eye can have a variety of causes, which impacts how it is treated. In diagnosing dry eye, determining the cause is vital.
Determining the cause of your dry eye symptoms is as important as diagnosing the problem’s existence in the first place. At our dry eye center, we consider this our primary task when patients come in seeking help for their dry eye.
The first step in the diagnosis process is speaking with our doctor. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, and how severe they are. You may also be asked to fill out a questionnaire, to provide additional information about the symptoms you are experiencing, to help the doctor better understand your situation and determine what course of treatment to pursue.
However, some things, like the cause of your dry eye, are difficult to determine without proper diagnostic techniques.
There are several types of tests you can expect.
A comprehensive eye exam is far more than just reading a vision chart. It includes a full examination of your eye health and health overall, including any past issues which may be related to eye health.
If you aren’t producing enough tears, that can cause dry eye, and help the doctor narrow down the list of possible causes. There are a couple of different tests designed for this purpose, such as the Schirmer test, in which strips of paper are placed under your eyelid to measure tear production, and the phenol red test, in which a thread with pH-sensitive dye (which will change color when exposed to tears) is placed over the lower eyelid and wetted with tears for a short period to check tear volume.
Dry eye can also be caused by a problem with the quality of your tears. These problems typically mean that your dry eye is caused by a different problem compared to those who have dry eye due to low tear production. There are tests to check this, such as the osmolarity test, which measures the composition of your tears.
The doctor may also perform a test, such as a stain test using specialized dyes to check for damage to the surface of the eye, which can be causing dry eye through irritation due to the damage. Seeing how quickly the tears evaporate can also provide additional information on the nature of your dry eye
Meibomian gland dysfunction is another common cause of dry eye, as it causes disruption in the production and secretion of oil that is a key component of the tear film. The doctor can physically check for signs of a problem using advanced imaging to scan the meibomian glands.
Following the diagnostic tests and discussion with you, the doctor should have a good idea of what the cause of your dry eye is, and will be able to recommend to you a treatment plan specifically tailored to your unique situation.
We have several methods through which to diagnose the causes of your dry eye, and through careful checks, we will be able to use that information to best help you get started with treatment. If you have additional questions, or wish to schedule an appointment for us to determine the nature of your dry eye, you can contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121.