Dry Eye Disease: What is it and how to treat it?

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Dry Eye is one of the most common eye-related conditions of 2017.  It is a direct side effect of our fondness for screens – since nowadays most of our lives are spent on a phone, computer or tablet. Dry eyes are also much more common than one might think: around 48% of Americans over the age of 18 experience dry eyes regularly. That being said, the condition should naturally receive more attention. The questions are simple: why does it appear? What are its symptoms? How do we treat it?

dry eye disease

Dry eye syndrome is a straightforward condition to understand. Simply put, when a person’s tears cannot sufficiently hydrate an eye, they will dry out quicker than usual. This will lead to a wide range of symptoms, and the underlying condition is both chronic and progressive. Its progress can quickly be stopped through treatment, resulting in higher comfort, fewer symptoms, and even sharper vision, in some cases. An optometrist can prescribe a few different treatment regimens for dry eyes.

An eye exam can find and determine the gravity of several dry eye symptoms. Here are the most common symptoms of dry eye:

- Burning sensation

- Itchy eyes

- Fatigue

- Dryness sensation

- Photophobia (sensitivity to light)

- Blurred vision

All these symptoms can appear due to a large number of reasons. Computer use is the first on the list, and next are wearing contact lenses, aging (the symptoms are much more present in persons over 50), prolonged time spent indoors, frequent flying, smoking, certain medications, and eyelid problems. Smartphones are also linked with dry eyes, according to recent studies.

Although symptoms might or might not be present, checking for dry eyes during your eye exams is extremely important. A test called Schirmer's test is used during regular eye exams in order to determine the dryness of a person’s eyes, as well as the quantity and quality of tears, which are directly linked. The test is extremely easy to handle and non-invasive, which makes regular eye exams with your optometrist a must.

Since Dry Eye Syndrome is so frequent, there are more than enough ways to handle its symptoms. Eliminating the root cause of dry eyes (spending too much time in front of a screen, smoking, or other reasons detailed above) can also dramatically improve one’s eyesight. Among these solutions, an optometrist can prescribe the following:

- Artificial tears are the most common solution to dry eyes. These are prescribed most often in easier cases, especially against prolonged computer use. Artificial tears come in a wide range of viscosity, from “light” ones who feel watery and have a rapid effect, to “heavier” ones which feel more like a gel and may provide long-lasting lubrication to a person’s eyes.

- The other solution is prescription drugs, such as Restasis or Xiidra – which both aim to reduce the inflammation that is associated with dry eyes.

- Punctual Plugs are also used in some cases. These are small, sterile devices which are inserted into the tear drainages and keep tears on the surface of the eye longer.

There are some other possible treatments as well, which your optometrist can prescribe on a case-by-case basis. As with most other eye conditions, having regular eye exams is crucial in detecting issues early as well as treating them correctly. Dry eyes are another example of conditions which can produce discomfort when ignored – all the more reason to schedule an eye exam today!