How Is Dry Eye Syndrome Diagnosed?

Dry eye syndrome is an illness that occurs when the eyes produce insufficient tears, causing dryness and discomfort. The tear film that coats the eye surface has water, oil, and mucus. It keeps the surface healthy, clean, nourished, and lubricated. When the tears produced are insufficient or of poor quality, it causes dryness. Persistent dry eye can cause cornea damage and other complications.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Dry eye symptoms vary from mild to severe, but most patients experience persistent discomfort. Symptoms of the condition include:

·      Dry and irritated eyes.

·      Itchiness.

·      A burning sensation.

·      The sensation of something in the eye.

·      Watery eyes or excessive tearing.

·      Eyelid inflammation or discomfort.

·      Sensitive or sore eyes.

·      Blurry vision.

If you have these symptoms, visit an eye doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Dry Eye Assessment

If you have dry eye symptoms, a doctor can evaluate your condition and check the severity. The doctor will decide on the appropriate tests to help in diagnosis. The tests will help to rule out other eye conditions or health problems. The doctor will determine whether the symptoms are due to allergies.

During the exam, the doctor will evaluate the cornea, tears, and eyelids. Assessing your blink dynamics will help determine the cause of the dryness. Several diagnostic tests can help determine whether you have dry eye.

Schirmer’s Test

It is the most basic and common dry eye test. The doctor may use the test to determine if your eyes produce sufficient tears to maintain moisture. The test involves the use of special medical paper placed inside the eyelids. The paper absorbs tears and helps to indicate the amount of water in the tear film.

Phenol Red Thread Test

The test helps to evaluate tear volume to check the aqueous layer. A diminished aqueous layer can inhibit the adequate spreading of tears across the eye surface. Doctors use a thin red string over the eyes to measure the volume of tears.

TearLab Test

It helps to assess tear osmolarity or saltiness. Low and stable osmolarity in both eyes ensures the eyes remain moist and healthy. The doctor will collect a tear sample before using a TearLab device to assess the osmolarity and tear film makeup.

Tear Break-Up Time (TBUT)

The test evaluates the time it takes for tears to evaporate. If they evaporate too fast, the eyes are not adequately lubricated, causing dryness. Doctors use blotting paper to apply fluorescent dye to the eye before assessing the tear film.


A specialized diagnostic tool helps to check for elevated MMP-9 levels in the tears. It is a protein present in the lining of the lower eyelid. High levels of the protein can indicate inflammation.


Meibomian gland dysfunction MGD) is the most prevalent cause of dry eye. Doctors use a LipiScan diagnostic device to assess the health of the meibomian glands. The device produces high-resolution images that can help to detect blockage or atrophy.

Treatment for dry eye will be based on the underlying cause. After diagnosis, the doctor will recommend the best treatment plan. Options include eye drops, eye inserts, punctal plugs, medications to relieve eyelid inflammation, tear-stimulating medications, blood serum drops, and more.

For more on dry eye syndrome diagnosis, visit Medical Center Eye Associates at our office in Amarillo, Texas. Call (806) 545-9400 to book an appointment today.