You may have seen the commercial on TV. An attractive doctor diagnoses her patient with chronic dry eyes, prescribes a drug to alleviate the symptoms, and announces that the drug helped her too. It was one of the most memorable American TV ads of 2013—making it to the Neilson top ten in advertising. One reason for its top-ten status was that it skillfully announced to the public how dry eye disease or dry eye syndrome (DES) is actually a disease, and not just an annoying temporary symptom.
It’s not often that eye disorders get such public attention, but dry eye disease confirms how important regular comprehensive exams are in treating conditions that patients sometimes brush off. Your optometrist can diagnose dry eye disease and set you on a path to better, more comfortable vision.
Dry eye disease is a chronic, or long-lasting condition. It happens when your eyes do not produce, or maintain enough tears to adequately lubricate the surface of the eye. Sometimes this is because of reduced tear production. In other cases, it arises as a result of the lack of lipid in tears. As medical professionals, we learn from current research—and dry eye is one condition where research and corresponding treatment is ongoing.
Dry eye symptoms run the gamut from dry and itchy, to burning and watering. They can also be painful, stinging, and irritated. It can even feel like you have a grain of sand in your eye. Dry eye effects different people in different ways, and treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms.
As for the contributing factors and causes? Dry eye can happen as a result of normal aging or hormonal change, environmental factors such as living or working in dry or dusty conditions. Air conditioning in summer and heating in winter can exacerbate the condition, as can staring at a computer or television screen for long periods of time. Researchers know that age and gender are factors in who gets dry eye. Women over 50 have a greater risk than men of the same age. Certain medications for blood pressure, allergies, and depression, can contribute, as well as having medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, and thyroid disease.
Optometrists have a number of weapons in their arsenal for treating dry eyes. Treatment depends on isolating the cause and determining the severity. Often, we examine the effects of lifestyle with an eye on alleviating major contributors to discomfort. If the cause is environmental, you may be able to eliminate or avoid it—such as wearing wrap-around glasses or goggles in dusty environments, or making sure you blink often while staring at a computer, video, or television screen.
Dry eye treatment could also include using over the counter eye drops, prescription drops, or even prescription drugs (such as the one promoted in the television commercial). Many people find the limiting their use of contact lenses, and warm compresses on the eyes, can help, as well as eye scrubs. Long term treatment plans include eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, keeping hydrated with water and blinking fully and consistently.
If you believe you have been suffering from dry eyes, give us a call, we have a number of treatment options that can help replenish moisture on the surface of your eyes and help you feel better.