Dry eye syndrome is an uncomfortable condition that can cause eyes to become dry, itchy, red, watery and gritty. It is caused by insufficient tears or poor quality oil in the tears that prevent the eyes from being properly lubricated.
Dry eye syndrome is a common side effect of LASIK surgery, so individuals considering laser surgery for long-term vision correction should speak with their eye doctor. An assessment at Freedom Eye Care Dry Eye Center in Austin can help determine your likelihood of developing dry eyes after the laser procedure and take measures to treat this condition, so you can fully enjoy your clear vision.
The Connection Between LASIK Surgery and Dry Eye
LASIK is the most commonly performed type of laser vision correction. In this procedure, a laser is used to cut a flap in the front of the eye, the cornea, which allows the eye surgeon to reshape the cornea with the laser.
One side effect of cutting this flap is that corneal nerves may be damaged. LASIK surgery can sever the most superficial nerves in the cornea, which then reduces the eye’s sensitivity to dry eye symptoms. This, in turn, may reduce the body’s tear production since the eye glands produce the essential water and oils in response to neural messages.
It is estimated that 50% of people who undergo LASIK surgery report dry eye symptoms in the following days and weeks. However, some of these patients may have experienced dry eye symptoms before surgery. They might even have opted for LASIK due to discomfort when wearing contact lenses, not realizing that this discomfort might be caused by a pre-existing case of dry eye syndrome. In both cases, treatment of dry eyes is essential for these patients
Whether the problem of dry, itchy eyes precedes LASIK surgery or is an aftereffect, it is important to assess the risks of developing or exacerbating dry eye syndrome following the procedure.
Testing Risk Factors for Dry Eye Before LASIK Surgery
Before LASIK surgery, patients are given a full eye exam. These tests may include:
- Tear breakup time tests
- Schirmer’s test
- Corneal imaging
- Tear osmolarity and inflammation
- Meibomian gland evaluation
A tear breakup test involves putting fluorescent dye on the surface of the eye to measure tear distribution and when the tears “break up.” For a Schirmer’s test, the doctor places a strip of paper under the eyelids to monitor tear production.
Corneal imaging uses non-invasive devices to assess the cornea and tear film without actual contact with the eye. The tear osmolarity and inflammation tests collect tears from the inside of the bottom eyelid to test protein levels that can signal a higher level of salt content and risk of inflammation in the tears.
What Increases the Risk of Developing Dry Eye?
- Medications, including antihistamines
- Autoimmune diseases
- Hot, windy or dry conditions and climates
- Pollution or poor quality air
Older patients, particularly post-menopausal women, and those suffering from autoimmune conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome, are more likely to have dry eye symptoms following the procedure. Those who take allergy medication and live in hot, dry climates should also take precautions.
Strategies to Prevent Dry Eye Caused by LASIK Surgery
Your eye doctor may recommend the following for patients who are at high risk of developing dry eye syndrome after LASIK surgery as well as those who have pre-existing symptoms:
- Punctal plugs
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Lubricating eye drops
- Prescription medication
- In-office treatments
Punctal plugs reduce eye moisture loss by blocking tear drainage tunnels. Omega-3 fatty acid supplements and lubricating eye drops can stimulate moisture in the eye before the procedure. Your eye doctor may prescribe eye drops or use a range of effective in-office dry eye treatments.
It is essential to work with professionals you can trust before, during and after LASIK surgery.
Freedom Eye Care Dry Eye Center serves patients from Austin, South Austin, Sunset Valley, and Bluff Springs, Texas and surrounding communities. Schedule your appointment for an assessment to discuss your questions about LASIK and dry eye syndrome.
- A: Consuming foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as fatty fish and flaxseeds can stimulate the oils that are essential for tear quality. Warm compresses, gland expression and eye massage can often relieve clogged glands in the eyelids and provide relief. Maintaining eyelid hygiene and wearing protective sunglasses can also reduce symptoms.
- A: Along with dry eyes, some of the symptoms of dry eye syndrome may include redness, an itchy and burning feeling, stringy mucus, grittiness and excessive eye-watering.