Dry Eyes: Do You Have Them?

Do your eyes feel dry or look red sometimes? Do you feel a burning or gritty sensation in your eyes?  You may be suffering from dry eye.

Dry eye is a condition that occurs when your eye is not sufficiently lubricated by your tears.  There are two types of dry eye: aqueous tear-deficient dry eye, in which there’s an inadequate amount of the watery component of tears (decreased tear production), and evaporative dry eye, in which there’s increased tear evaporation caused by an imbalance in the composition of your tears.  Tears are comprised of three layers (oil, water and mucous) and problems with any layer can cause dry eye.

Symptoms of dry eye may include:

·        Pain and redness of the eye

·        Burning or stinging of the eye

·        A gritty feeling as if something is in the eye

·        Blurred vision episodes

·        Heavy eyelids, eye fatigue

·        Stringy discharge from the eye

·        Watery eyes

·        Nighttime driving difficulties

·        Decreased tolerance for reading, computer work or an activity with sustained visual attention

·        Unable to cry when emotionally stressed

·        An uncomfortable feeling in the eye from contact lenses

·        Excess tears following very dry eye periods

The Importance of Finding out the Cause of Your Dry Eyes

There are many causes of dry eye, which can be a temporary or chronic condition.  Some of the more common causes include:  aging, certain medications, tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation, smoke, dry air, infrequent blinking (due to a sustained visual activity), and disorders such as thyroid disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.  Dry eye can also be indicative of certain conditions, including chronic conjunctivitis, eye disease or infection, or disease of the tear producing glands in the eyelids.

Dry Heat Can Mean Dry Eyes

When the weather turns cooler this time of year and home heating systems are turned on, dry eye can result.  A humidifier will add moisture to the air and help alleviate symptoms.  However, anyone suffering from dry eye should see an ophthalmologist for an exam.  It’s important to determine the cause of dry eye, because the condition is more than just a nuisance.  If left untreated, an increased risk of eye infection or damage to the surface of the eye could develop.

Lots of Help for Your Dry Eyes – Prescription and Over the Counter

It’s best to consult your ophthalmologist if your dry eyes are bothering you.Once your ophthalmologist determines the cause of dry eye, treatment can be determined.  This may include artificial tears, switching medication which can cause dry eye as a side effect (for example, some antidepressants), treating an underlying disease which causes dry eye, switching to a different contact lens or reducing the hours worn.  In some cases, dry eye can be treated with an anti-inflammatory prescription medication.  This medication can decrease damage to the cornea, increase tear production and reduce overall symptoms of dry eye within 3-6 months.

If recommended by your doctor, over the counter remedies such as artificial tears, gels and ointments can provide temporary relief for decreased tear production.  Wrap around sunglasses, indoor air filters and adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet may help slow tear evaporation.

Your Eyes May Be Your Most Precious Sense – Always Protect Them

If you are suffering from dry eye, consult your ophthalmologist for a comprehensive examination and treatment plan.  It’s an essential step toward protecting the health of your eyes.

Coming Soon to Silverstein Eye: Dr. Niki is always at the cutting edge of science. Lipiflow treatments for evaporative dry eye plus a laser imaging system to diagnose and follow evaporative dry eye will soon be available in the Chester office.

 

 

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