Detecting Dry Eye Early

March 24, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thinking about getting corrective eye surgery? Dry eye syndrome can complicate recovery and, left undiagnosed, may even disqualify you from getting the procedure.Imagine sandpaper scraping across your eyeball. That's how doctors described dry eye syndrome to Mary Liggett.

"It's kind of a grittiness and an itchiness. But then if you rub, it's kind of a grittiness and there will be like a discharge in your eye," Liggett says.

She has Sjogren's syndrome, a condition that affects the body's moisture producing glands. One of the side effects -- dry eyes.

"I might be crying and boo-hooing up a storm, but I just didn't have enough moisture to produce tears," Liggett says.

Ophthalmologist James McCulley uses a lissamine green vital stain compound to detect dry eye syndrome.

"It stains cells that have either died or dried out," says James P. McCulley, M.D., an ophthalmologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.

Dr. McCulley believes this stain is the key to detecting dry eye early, before the problem gets worse.

"If it is an early dry eye, the part of the ocular surface to stain is the white of the eye near the nose. The next stage in development of severity is add to that staining of the white of the eye out toward the ear. And the third is the cornea," Dr. McCulley explains.

"It's just a momentary sting when they first put it in. But it's interesting, because the world changes colors," Liggett says.

Artificial tear drops are the most common treatment for dry eye. If untreated, dry eye can lead to infections and vision problems.

More than 10 million Americans don't have enough moisture in their eyes. Crying without tears and always feeling you have something in your eye can be signs you are suffering from dry eye syndrome.

Russell Rian
UT Southwestern Medical Center
(214) 648-3404