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Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Dry Eye

What is dry eye?

Among the many different reasons for eye discomfort, by far the most common is “dry eye.” This condition, characterized by unstable tear film, is distinct from other mechanical dysfunctions (i.e., blepharitis and blocked tear ducts) which have comparable symptoms but are less serious.

Prior to the development of explicit tests, a dry eye diagnosis often masked additional underlying dysfunctions which resulted in ineffective treatments. Now, with our ability to diagnose all abnormalities, there is new and valuable insight into the actual cause and effects of the disease. For example, it was previously assumed that the irritation suffered by dry eye patients was due to a lack of tears. Given new information, Bascom Palmer specialists have disproved this theory. They’ve shown that eye comfort depends not on “tears,” but on the lubricating “mucous layer” of tears produced by cells on the conjunctiva of the eye. Patients with a significant loss of these cells suffer what is described as Keratoconjunctivitis sicca.