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Over 25 million Americans suffer from dry, irritated eyes, making it the number-one complaint seen by eye doctors. Our Hamilton, New Jersey practice is no different. Symptom severity can vary from a mild intermittent nuisance to severe pain and loss of vision. Although the condition cannot be cured, advances in treatment options allow most symptoms to be brought under control, restoring comfort and preserving vision. If left untreated, dry eye progresses over time.

How Dry Eye Happens

The tear film is a complex solution made up of mucous, salt water and oil. It functions to protect the surface of the eye, keeping it moist and lubricated. This complex fluid washes away allergens, infectious bacteria, and viruses. This plays into the inner workings of the eye.

Much like a recipe, poor quality ingredients (mucous, salt water, and oil) together with improper proportions produces a poor tear film incapable of protecting the eye. The corneal surface begins to break down, causing eye redness and irritation. Environmental stressors such as heat, low humidity, wind, and allergens exacerbate the symptoms of dry eye.

Dry eye is a low-grade inflammation of the surface of the eye. A treatment plan must be tailored to the individual based on the intensity of the symptoms and findings of the eye exam.

The Prevailing Treatment Methods

At our Princeton-area ophthalmology practice, we have several approaches for treating dry eye. In each case, the goal of treatment is to increase the volume and quality of the tears.

  • Artificial tears and ointments: These provide the first line of defense. They do not alter the course of the dry eye itself, but they do provide temporary relief by coating the corneal surface.
  • Eyelid hygiene: Keeping the eyelids clean decreases the bacteria that normally inhabit the eyelids. These bacteria release toxins that irritate the eye. Baby shampoo, antiseptic wipes, or solutions will decrease the bacterial load on the eyelid and improve symptoms. Antibiotic drops may sometimes be added to decrease the number of bacteria on the eyelid skin.
  • Blocking the tear ducts: The tear ducts (one for each eyelid) drain away the tears. Blocking them keeps the tears in contact with the eye longer and slows the egress of tears, keeping the eye more moist.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Because the underlying cause of dry eye is inflammation, medications for inflammation can improve signs and symptoms of dry eye. Steroid drops provide rapid relief of symptoms, but they can only be used for short periods due to a possibility of causing glaucoma or cataracts. For long-term treatment, anti-inflammatory drops RESTASIS® and Xiidra® are now available.

Dry eye is an exceedingly common condition that can manifest as only a minor nuisance — but in the most serious cases, it may lead to severe visual loss. That’s why we recommend coming in for a consultation if you are experiencing symptoms. There is currently no cure for dry eyes, but treatments can improve comfort and prevent visual loss.



Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common conditions eye doctors treat on a daily basis, both here in the Hamilton and Princeton, NJ area and nationwide. It is a very common disorder, affecting approximately 30% of the population. Tears adhere to the surface of our eyes in order to protect and keep them moist. Dry eye is the result of either decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation.

There are multiple risk factors for dry eye. I find that environment plays one of the largest roles. Cold, dry winters, heaters and air conditioners, smoke, and dust are some of the factors that can aggravate dry eye. Certain medications such as antihistamines, beta blockers, and antidepressants can cause a decrease in tear production. Additionally, diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and lupus can have a severe impact on dry eye.

Patients with dry eye will experience symptoms such as a gritty or sandy feeling in their eyes, redness, blurry, fluctuating vision, and light sensitivity. Interestingly, patients may also experience tearing, which is a reflex secretion due to dryness.

In mild cases of dry eye where a patient has minimal symptoms, artificial tears used as needed provide relief. In more moderate to severe cases, patients will require regular use of artificial tears along with anti-inflammatory drops. RESTASIS® is a wonderful medicine for patients with moderate symptoms who need long-term treatment.

Dry eye is caused by inflammation of the glands that make tears, resulting in less production and a poor quality. RESTASIS helps to prevent this inflammatory process and improves the amount and quality of tears. Omega-3 supplements have also been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the eyes, allowing for better tear production. There is even a simple and easy procedure that can be performed in the office to block the tear ducts, which prevents tears from draining out of the eyes, keeping them moister.

Although a very common disease, dry eye can be very debilitating if left untreated. Fortunately, over the years, wonderful new medicines and therapies have arisen for treating dry eye. Patients who have dry eyes should feel reassured that with the appropriate treatment, their symptoms can be dramatically improved and even completely resolved.

Do you think you may have dry eye syndrome? I urge you to contact us to find out some strategies for improving your vision, your comfort, and your quality of life.

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Monroe Township
Outlook Eyecare
5 Centre Drive #1B
Monroe Township, NJ 08831
Phone: (609) 409-2777

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Outlook Eyecare
100 Canal Pointe Boulevard #100
Princeton, NJ 08540
Phone: (609) 419-1920

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