Thats when things really get serious, said Dr. McCulley, the studys senior author. If the dry eye is significantly affecting the cornea, it deteriorates vision and adds a major risk factor for a person developing a bad infection.
Stains in the cornea indicate a break in the surface cells. Most bacteria require such a break in order to penetrate the eye, where the bacteria can cause an ulcer.
When the surface is healthy, were protected against the vast majority of bacteria. But if theres a compromise of the surface, then bacteria can invade, said Dr. McCulley, who said the investigation was inspired by his many years observing staining patterns in the patients he treated.
Researchers examined the stain patterns in 22 patients with varying degrees of dry eyes and 11 patients without ocular disease, who served as control subjects. The research not only revealed the progressive pattern, but also underscored the value of using lissamine green stain over the more commonly used fluorescein stain, which doesnt easily identify damage until it is more progressed.
If an ophthalmologist uses the most commonly used stain, which is fluorescein, theyre going to miss the first two stages of the development of dry eye and consequently miss a lot of diagnoses, said Dr. McCulley, director of the Theodore and Mary Beasley Laboratory for Ocular Surface Research and the Jean H. & John T. Walter Jr. Center for Research in Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
Earlier diagnosis is crucial in giving doctors more treatment options and preventing the disease from getting worse. Dry eye syndrome can also signal other conditions such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, further underscoring the importance of early diagnosis.
The more severe stage is not only more problematic in
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UT Southwestern Medical Center