Dry eye is a surprisingly common ocular condition. However, in most instances, the symptoms are mild and resolve themselves fairly quickly. As a result, many people who experience dry eye don’t actually realize that they are suffering from a recognized eye problem. However, for a percentage of people, the symptoms and effects of the condition are either chronic or recurring and have a significant impact on their ability to function day to day. Fortunately, there are a number of solutions that can alleviate your symptoms and ensure your eyes are functioning as optimally as possible.
As you’ve probably guessed from the name, dry eye is a condition that is characterized by inadequate lubrication of the eyes. Precisely why this happens can vary. You could be producing insufficient amounts of tear film to coat your eyes, or the quality of the tear film could be compromised meaning that it isn’t as effective in lubricating your eyes as it should be.
There are numerous symptoms of dry eye. You may experience some or all of them, and they may come and go or remain constant. They include:
- Eyes that feel dry and stiff to move
- Eyes that feel gritty or like you have something trapped in them
- Tired eyes
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Problems with wearing contact lenses
- Eyes that are more watery than normal, which is the body’s way of trying to counteract the dryness
It is not always known exactly what causes a dry eye to develop. However, there are some factors that make someone more likely to experience the condition. These include the following:
Age: patients over the age of 50 have been shown to be more likely to develop dry eye.
Lifestyle: studies have found that patients who, drink moderate to high amounts of alcohol regularly or take recreational drugs are more likely to develop dry eye.
Health: patients who suffer from health problems including lupus, blepharitis and Sjögren’s syndrome could be at greater risk of experiencing dry eye.
Work: if your job involves spending long periods of time working in front of a computer or laptop and looking at screens, you could be at a higher risk of suffering from dry eye.
Medications: the dry eye is regularly listed as a side effect in a number of different medications including some types of antidepressant and blood pressure drugs.
Environment: dry, dusty and air-conditioned environments have been shown to heighten the risk of developing dry eye.
Fortunately, there are a variety of different options available to treat dry eye. The first thing that we will do will be to recommend making any necessary lifestyle changes to reduce the likelihood that you will experience dry eye. This may include quitting smoking and cutting back on your alcohol consumption. We may also make recommendations for your diet, such as including foods that have been proven to improve eye health, such as carrots and leafy green vegetables. If you take medications that list dry eye as a side effect, we may suggest that you speak to your doctor to see if there are any alternative drugs that you can take that do not increase your risk of dry eye.
Beyond those changes listed above, we will work with you to find the least invasive solution to alleviate your condition. This could include:
Eye drops: some eye drops are purely lubricating, while others contain ingredients that help to reduce inflammation that will help reduce your symptoms.
Antibiotics: the eyes are extremely sensitive and there is also a risk that you will develop infection. As such, you may be given antibiotics to be taken orally or as an ointment or eye drop, to help reduce this risk.
Medications: there are some drugs, known as cholinergics, that can actually stimulate tear production to lubricate your eyes more effectively. These medications can be administered orally or supplied as topical gels or eyedrops.
Lipiflow: if the treatments listed above aren’t proving successful, we may recommend you consider the Lipiflow system. This solution uses electrical pulses to break up blockages in the tear ducts so that tear film production can resume.
Punctal plugs: if the cause of your dry eye is believed to be down to your tear film draining too quickly, we may suggest a treatment called punctal plugs. These tiny devices are placed into the corners of your eye where tear film usually drains away, keeping the fluid in your eyes for longer.
If you would like more information about dry eye, our friendly and dedicated team at Okaloosa Eye Care in Crestview, FL would be delighted to help. Please contact us to arrange an appointment by calling 850-683-0221.