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  • Writer's pictureDr. Zimski

Understanding Dry Eye Diagnostic Tests

Are you experiencing persistent eye discomfort such as burning, stinging, or itching? 

Do you want to learn about cutting-edge diagnostic tests that can identify the root cause of your dry eye symptoms—and make an effective treatment plan?

If you have already tried over-the-counter remedies and at-home treatments and they haven’t given you the relief you need, it may be time to consider the advanced diagnostic techniques that can give you a comprehensive, accurate assessment of your condition.

Many of the patients we work with are frustrated by the lack of definitive answers from previous medical consultations and failed treatments. They’re rightfully concerned about the potential long-term impact of untreated dry eye on their vision and overall eye health.

Diagnostic tests can facilitate early detection and effective management of dry eye syndrome and other conditions. 

If you’re a long-time sufferer of dry eye disease, if you have exhausted traditional treatment options and you need to have a more effective treatment plan, here is an introduction to the precise diagnostic methods we use to pinpoint the underlying causes of dry eye issues.

“Patients often come to me frustrated because they have tried many treatments and are still suffering.  In my experience, a thorough history, exam and diagnostic tests help guide treatment regimens ensuring the most effective treatments are chosen for each patient, depending on their unique situation.”
—Lauren Zimski M.D

Overview of Dry Eye Disease

Chronic dry eye disease can make reading, working on the computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention more difficult. Healthy tear production is critical for eye health. When your tears aren’t doing their job, you can experience a scratchy feeling, constant dryness, and stinging eyes.

Temporary dry eyes can be caused by a dry climate or over-wearing contact lenses. Denver has dry air year-round due to the higher altitudes, so these kinds of symptoms are common here.

With chronic dry eye syndrome, the symptoms are persistent. Severe cases can include light sensitivity, severe eye pain or fluctuating vision. Chronic dry eye is a medical condition that, over time, can decrease the eye's ability to make and/or maintain sufficient quality and quantity of tears for a healthy tear film leading to decreased quality of life. 

Other names for dry eye include keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), evaporative dry eye, aqueous tear deficiency, and neurotrophic keratitis.

Importance of Diagnostic Testing

If you’re suffering from dry eyes, you should understand that there are effective treatments to relieve pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision, foreign body sensation and dryness.

There is hope! But getting relief from dry eye syndrome hinges on identifying the underlying causes of your symptoms, and that starts with a consultation with your eye doctor

During the consultation, we will assess for eyelid abnormalities, signs of facial and ocular rosacea, demodex, poor blinking, tear film quality, oil gland anatomy and meibum quality and secretion. This will help pinpoint the reasons behind your dry eyes and let us identify appropriate treatment strategies to address and resolve the issue.

Effective treatment planning starts with educating yourself (which is why I started this blog!). We want to dispel common misconceptions about dry eye and teach Coloradans about the specialized testing options that are available to them. 

It takes guidance from an ophthalmologist for effective management of dry eye syndrome. For example, over-the-counter eye drops, particularly those labeled for eye redness, can exacerbate the issue rather than alleviate it. Fortunately, there are many new treatments and ongoing research with new treatments on the horizon.  Much progress has been made, and while treatment still involves some trial and error, we are much better at targeting appropriate treatments for each individual patient.  

Common Dry Eye Diagnostic Tests

Let’s look at a few diagnostic tests, how they work and what they can show us about your condition.

Infrared Meibography

Meibomian gland dysfunction is a common cause of dry eye. Infrared meibography gives us an enhanced view of these glands, which produce the important lipid layer of your tear film. It allows us to look at the structure of the glands and evaluate the severity of meibomian gland dysfunction.  

While meibography shows us the anatomy of the glands, it does not tell us how well they are functioning, which is arguably a more important diagnostic test.  Advanced imaging systems allow us to push on the glands to evaluate the quality and quantity of the oil.  This is captured via video so patients can see the issue and understand the treatment regimen.  

There are various treatments that unblock meibomian glands and restore normal gland function. Without treatment, these blockages can eventually lead to irreversible meibomian gland atrophy and dropout.

Tear Breakup Time (TBUT)

Tear breakup time (TBUT) is another clinical test used to assess for evaporative dry eye disease. To measure TBUT, fluorescein is added to the tear film and observed under a broad beam of cobalt blue light. The TBUT is measured in the number of seconds between the last blink and the appearance of the first dry spot in the tear film. A TBUT under 10 seconds is considered abnormal. 

You can see this progression in the images below. This patient also has punctate epithelial erosions (PEE), another sign of ocular surface dryness.

Understanding Dry Eye Diagnostic Tests

Understanding Diagnostic Test Results

So how do we interpret diagnostic test results? And what do these results tell us about the severity and nature of your dry eye condition?

Test findings are what guide our treatment selection and management strategies.

Schedule Your Dry Eye Diagnostic Appointment

Are you experiencing persistent dry eye symptoms despite trying multiple remedies? You may need advanced diagnostic solutions to identify dry eye disease and determine its underlying causes.

Beyond simple eye exams and basic symptom assessment, Lauren Zimski M.D specializes in personalized diagnosis and treatment plans for dry eye sufferers, utilizing advanced techniques such as IPL therapy and LipiFlow to provide tailored solutions for optimal relief and long-term eye health.

Dr. Zimski is a trusted Denver-area ophthalmologist offering excellent dry eye syndrome treatment, comprehensive eye exams, ocular surface disease management, and customized dry eye solutions and tips. We understand the importance of individualized care plans tailored to each patient's unique needs.

Dr. Zimski would love to work with you! Thorough dry eye diagnostic testing is the key to achieving optimal treatment outcomes. You can schedule your first appointment online, or contact us with any questions using our online form or by calling 303-863-1231.


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