What is Dry Eye?
Tears are necessary for overall eye health. Dry eye occurs when the eyes aren’t sufficiently moisturized, leading to itching, redness and pain from dry spots on the surface of the eye. The eyes may become dry and irritated because the tear ducts don’t produce enough tears, or because the tears themselves have a chemical imbalance. People who suffer from dry eyes may have difficulty performing certain daily activities. People usually begin experiencing dry eye symptoms as they age, but the condition can also result from certain medications, conditions or injuries. Dry eye is not only painful; it can also damage the eye’s tissues and impair vision. Fortunately, many treatment options are available.
Common Symptoms of Evaporative Dry Eye Disease
- Stinging or scratching sensation
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
- Discomfort in windy or dry conditions
These symptoms may also be accompanied by:
- Difficulty performing visual tasks like reading, watching TV, computer work and driving
- Inability to wear contact lenses
- Constant use of eye drops
- Trouble being out in the sun
- Symptoms that worsen late in the day
Who gets Chronic Dry Eye and what are the causes?
Anyone can suffer from Chronic Dry Eye, which may be caused by:
- Hormonal changes related to aging, pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause (Chronic Dry Eye is most common among women who are experiencing menopause or who are approaching menopause)
- Medical condition, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
- Medications (prescription and over-the-counter)
Why is it important to diagnose and treat dry eye disease?
For some, dry eye symptoms such as itchy, burning, stinging eyes may seem like a nuisance. However, if left untreated, dry eye disease can have serious consequences including:
- Permanent corneal scarring
- Corneal ulcers
- Increased risk of eye infections
Tips for Managing Dry Eye
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Essential fatty acid nutrients are responsible for producing both the watery and the oily aqueous layers of the tear film. The best food sources of essential fatty acids are fish oil and cold-water fish, such as salmon, halibut, sardines and tuna. Daily supplements of flaxseed oil or fish oil, when used alone or in tandem with lubricating eye drops, appear to reduce dry eye symptoms, including burning, stinging, redness and intermittent visual disturbances. For this reason, many eye doctors recommend flaxseed oil and fish oil supplements for their patients who suffer from dry eyes.
- Avoid cigarette smoke: Cigarette smoke can cause your eyes to dry out as well as increase the risk of cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
- Consider using a humidifier: A humidifier adds moisture to dry indoor air, slowing tear evaporation.
- Automobile air vents: Redirect air vents away from your face and eyes because the forced air can quickly dry the moisture from your eyes.
- Avoid anti-histamine or other allergy medications: Often these medications are designed to ‘dry up’ your nose; they tend to dry your eyes at the same time.
- Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water regardless of the season: If your body becomes dehydrated, so do your eyes.
- Take breaks from the computer: Individuals who spend a lot of time on the computer actually blink less which evaporates moisture and can enhance dry eyes.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses: Sunglasses with wraparound frames shield your eyes from sun and wind, slowing the evaporation of tears.
- Warm compresses and eyelid washing: Put warm compresses on your eyes and then gently wash your eyelid with baby shampoo to help release the oil in your eyelids’ glands which will improve the quality of your tears.
- Medical conditions: People with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), inflammation of the surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can cause dry eyes to develop.
Visit one of our eye doctors
These management tips will help, but if you continue to suffer from dry eye it’s time to talk with one of our eye doctors to determine the best course of treatment for you. You may benefit from prescription medication or lacrimal plugs, which keep the tears from draining out of your eyes. We are an accredited dry eye center and utilize the Tear Lab Osmolarity system which measures the osmolarity of a person’s tears to aid in the diagnosis of dry eye disease evaluation and treatment. The primary approaches we use to treat dry eye, after diagnosis, include adding tears using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions, conserving tears, increasing tear production, and treating the inflammation of the eyelids or the eye surface that contributes to the dry eyes.