Dry Eye

Dry Eye in Olympia

Up to 49 million Americans have dry eyes and the prevalence trend is only increasing.

Dry eye disease can be progressive and chronic and if left untreated can cause severe permanent damage. This condition is increasing in prevalence as our society becomes more dependent on digital screens so dry eye is here to stay, but it can be controlled and managed.

Please speak to our optometrist about how to manage dry eye disease and how to make the proper adjustments to your lifestyle and environment to reduce your symptoms.

American Family Vision Clinic

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

  • Stinging or burning eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Sensation of foreign body in your eyes
  • Gritty sensation in your eyes like sandpaper rubbing against each other
  • Light sensitivity 
  • Eyes feel tired
  • Difficulty/ discomfort wearing contact lenses
  • Eye irritation
  • Stringy discharge from the eyes 
  • Blurry vision 

If you are experiencing any of these, please consult with our optometrist to help relieve the symptoms as there are a variety treatment options available.

Risk Factors of Dry Eyes

There are a multitude of risk factors and it’s important to be aware of them in order to do what you can to make adjustments when possible and to seek guidance from our optometrist.

Some top risk factors are:

  • Older population - the majority of the population above age 65 experience dry eye symptoms but the prevalence of dry eyes increases after age 40
  • Women - women have a 70% increase in risk of dry eye disease  
  • People of Asian heritage

Medical risk factors:

  • Meibomian gland dysfunction
  • Sjorgens syndrome 
  • Thyroid problems
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus 
  • Various medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines blood pressure medications  
  • Hormone replacement treatment 
  • Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK
  • Inflammation of the eyelids, known as blepharitis and other eyelid conditions

Environmental risk factors

  • Use of air conditioning/ fans
  • Low humidity
  • Windy conditions
  • Dry climates 

There are also risk factors which may be able to be adjusted, including:

  • Extended digital screen usage 
  • Wearing contact lenses - people who wear contact lenses are 4 times more likely to develop dry eyes than people who do not use contact lenses 
  • Smoking/ exposure to secondhand smoke 
Risk Factors of Dry Eyes
Over 86% of people with dry eyes exhibit signs of meibomian gland dysfunction

Over 86% of people with dry eyes exhibit signs of meibomian gland dysfunction

Meibomian gland dysfunction is the most common cause of dry eye disease.There are 3 essential layers in your tears, one of them is the oil layer which originates from the meibomian glands in your eyelids. If there is any issue with the tiny meibomian glands, such as an obstruction, it can cause meibomian gland dysfunction which causes dry eye disease in the majority of cases. Meibomian gland dysfunction can also cause blepharitis which is an inflammation of your eyelids. In fact, meibomian gland dysfunction, blepharitis and dry eye disease are often found together.

Over 86% of people with dry eyes exhibit signs of meibomian gland dysfunction

How is Dry Eye Treated?

There are many effective treatment options for dry eye, each catering to specific causes and symptoms. It is also important to treat any underlying medical conditions. Below is an overview introducing the many different types of treatment options and our staff will gladly discuss these possibilities with you in depth and answer any questions you have:

  • Omega 3 nutritional supplement to increase tear production
  • Proper eyelid hygiene
  • Warm compresses used to remove obstruction of oil glands
  • Variety of eye drops
  • Tiny silicone plugs, called punctal plugs used to close the tear ducts
  • Special contact lenses
  • Prescription steroids to decrease inflammation
  • Prescription antibiotics for infection
  • Light therapy to open blocked meibomian glands

It is essential to know that there are many treatment options available to relieve your symptoms so please don’t hesitate to consult with our optometrist in order to improve your quality of life.

Treatment Options

Each type of treatment option serves its own purpose and therefore it’s important to consult with our optometrist to find the best method for you. For example:

Proper eyelid hygiene

This is essential for everyone, including those with blepharitis. This condition is treated with a special eyelid cleaner that we have in our clinic. It only takes a few minutes for our optometrist to clean your eyelid margins using the equipment that we have here, and to maintain their hygiene with regular treatments.

Warm compress - it is used to remove obstruction of oil glands and there are different kinds:

  • Eye mask - there are special eye masks which can be used at home as it simply needs to be microwaved and then placed on top of your eyes in order to clean your eyelids and eyelashes, however is does not express the glands 
  • Thermal Pulsation Treatment -  this is a treatment provided in the clinic by our optometrist and it is considered by many specialists in the field as the top method for treating meibomian gland dysfunction as it gently heats and massages the eyelids, allowing the glands to express and to resume its natural production of oil to create a much healthier eye surface.
Risk Factors of Dry Eyes
Over 86% of people with dry eyes exhibit signs of meibomian gland dysfunction

Eye Drops

There are many different types of eye drops, sold under different names, each treating different symptoms and causes of dry eyes:

  • Artificial tears are used to lubricate and preserve moisture on the outer surface of the eye
  • Cyclosporine reduces swelling in order to increase tear production
  • Lifitegrast reduces inflammation and is often used together with cyclosporine

Common Questions

To help deal with your dry eyes some natural solutions are to apply warm compresses over your eyes twice a day for 10 minutes and then do lid massages with lid scrubs. Also taking omega-3 fish oil supplements or eating foods with naturally high omega-3s as well as staying hydrated can help. Additionally, taking breaks from your digital screen devices is important; every 20 minutes look somewhere far away, like outside of your window, for 20 seconds. Furthermore, If you’re an incomplete blinker, there are different blink exercises to learn how to take more frequent and full blinks, which can help relieve your symptoms of dry eyes. In regards to your environment you can add a humidifier and filter to add moisture to the air.
Some at-home remedies to relieve your symptoms of dry eyes is to apply warm compresses over your eyes for 10minutes. Some ways to achieve this at home is to boil an egg or potato then wrap it in a paper towel to place over your eyes to allow for consistent heat over your eyes. You can also heat up a bag of rice as an alternative warm compress. Taking omega-3 fish oil vitamins can also help. Also, if you stare at a digital device screen for long periods of time remember to take breaks; every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Yes, when we perform tasks that require high visual concentration, such as staring at a computer screen, reading, or writing for a prolonged period of time, this results in us blinking less, causing dry eyes. Additionally, some other everyday activities that can cause dry eyes are using a hair dryer, not drinking enough water, sitting in front of the office air-conditioner or fan, wearing eye makeup, working in extreme temperatures, wind blowing in your face, or being surrounded by cigarette smoke.
When you have dry eyes this sends out a signal to your lacrimal gland to produce more tears, but then this results in an overproduction of tears causing tearing/watery eyes. The overproduction of tears is called reflex tearing. Your body is trying to counteract your dry eyes, so it then starts to produce more tears, but then it ends up flooding your eyes with too much tears, resulting in a vicious cycle of dry and then teary eyes. That is why it’s important to deal with the root of the cause of the tearing, which is your dry eyes, to stop this sequence of events from happening. But it’s important to also note that watery eyes can be caused by other conditions as well, so be sure to get a thorough evaluation by your eye doctor to determine the proper diagnosis and treatment.
There are various symptoms of dry eyes such as your eyes feeling gritty, irritated, scratchy, foreign body sensation, burning, excessive watering/tearing, redness, blurry vision, or you may experience light sensitivity. Dry eyes can also cause your eyes to feel tired. However, there can also be other causes of eye fatigue. Some activities that can result in your eyes feeling tired is prolonged use of digital devices, reading without breaks, activities that involve extended focus, being exposed to bright light/glare or straining your eyes because of dim lighting, uncorrected vision, or being stressed/fatigued.
There are ways to alter your environment in order to prevent dry eyes. For instance, avoid air blowing in your eyes such as a fan, air conditioner, hair dryers, or car heaters. Also consider adding a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air, which is especially useful when the heaters are on in the winter. Also, when you go outside the wind and dry air can cause your eyes to tear and be dry, so to prevent this and to protect your eyes it’s important to wear sunglasses or other protective eyewear when you go outside. Furthermore, if you are working with your digital device it’s important to take breaks and follow the 20/20/20 rule, which is every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Additionally, sometimes your eye doctor may notice early signs of dry eyes before you experience symptoms, so you can prophylactically treat dry eyes by applying warm compresses over your eyes and doing lid massage, as well as using artificial tears to keep the front surface of your eyes lubricated.
If you’re experiencing any symptoms of dry eyes you should see your optometrist to get a thorough dry eye evaluation to determine the severity of your dry eyes and then have the proper course of treatment. Some symptoms of dry eyes are if your eyes feel gritty, irritated, scratchy, foreign body sensation, burning, excessive watering/tearing, redness, or you may experience light sensitivity. Other symptoms may include blurry vision; you may notice you find yourself blinking more frequently in order for your vision to get cleared up, after going in and out of focus, due to an unstable ocular surface. Since symptoms of dry eyes can also be similar to symptoms caused by other eye conditions, it’s best to not just take care of the problem by yourself, and it’s important to visit your eye doctor so that you can get the proper diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, there are instances when sometimes signs of dry eyes can be detected by your eye doctor before you even experience any symptoms. So, in that case your eye doctor may also provide some sort of treatment to prevent you from starting to feel symptoms of dry eyes in the future. Thus, if you don’t experience any symptoms of dry eyes it is still important to get your eyes examined at least once per year.
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Dry eye disease can be progressive and chronic and if left untreated can cause severe permanent damage. This condition is increasing in prevalence as our society becomes more dependent on digital screens so dry eye is here to stay, but it can be controlled and managed.

Call our office at (360) 491-2121 to schedule an appointment with our optometrist to discuss how you can manage dry eye disease and how to make the proper adjustments to your lifestyle and environment to reduce your symptoms. Patients with dry eyes visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.

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Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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