Dry Eye

Sometimes your eyes don’t make enough tears or the tears evaporate too fast because they don’t have the right amount of compounds in them. This is called dry eye. Up to 5% of Americans complain of some form of dry eye. Individuals who wear contact lenses or have undergone LASIK or other types of refractive surgery commonly complain of dry eye. The condition is more common in women and is more common and severe in older persons.

Dry eye may occur by itself, or the surface of the eye may be inflamed at the same time. This condition can make it harder for you to carry out certain activities such as reading for long periods or looking at a computer screen. You may also be less comfortable in dry environments.

Mild cases of dry eye may go away on their own. However, if dry eye persists and goes untreated, it can cause ulcers or scars on the surface of the eye (cornea). This can be painful and may lead to some vision loss. Permanent loss of vision from dry eye, though, is uncommon.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Dry eye can lead to different symptoms, including:

    Being unable to read, work on the computer or do other eye-intensive activities for long periods
    Blurry vision
    Burning or stinging of the eye
    Discharge from the eye
    Discomfort while wearing contact lenses
    Eye fatigue
    Feeling like there is something in your eye
    Eyelids that feel heavy
    Not being able to cry, even when upset emotionally
    Periods of excess tears followed by very dry eyes
    Redness or pain in the eye

If these symptoms persist or grow worse, contact your eye doctor. He or she will identify the underlying cause of dry eye and offer treatment options.

Causes of Dry Eye

Many factors can lead to dry eye, both temporary and ongoing (chronic), including:

    Allergies
    Chemical and heat burns of the membrane that covers the eye and inside of the eyelids (conjunctiva)
    Chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva or the lacrimal gland
    Cosmetic eyelid surgery
    Diseases of the skin on or around the eyelids or the glands in the eyelids
    Exposure to irritants, such as chemical fumes, tobacco smoke or drafts from heating or air conditioning
    Hormone replacement therapy
    Immune system disorders such as lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis
    Long-term contact lens wear
    Medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines, birth control pills, certain blood pressure medicines, nasal decongestants, Parkinson’s medications and tranquilizers
    Not blinking enough while looking at electronic screens
    Pregnancy
    Refractive surgery, such as LASIK
    Thyroid disease
    Vitamin deficiency or excess

Treatments for Dry Eye

Several treatments are available to relieve symptoms of dry eye, including:

    Anti-inflammatory medication such as cyclosporine or short-term use of corticosteroid eye drops
    Dietary changes or supplements, such as adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet
    Managing the underlying condition with medication or other treatments
    Plugging the tear ducts to keep the tears from flowing away, either temporarily or permanently
    Switching medications that may be causing dry eye
    Wearing contact lenses less frequently or switching to another type of lens

If you have dry eye, you may also be able to take steps to reduce the symptoms, such as by:

    Avoiding dry conditions
    Filtering the air in your house with an air cleaner
    Keeping the moisture in your house at a comfortable level with a humidifier
    Resting your eyes periodically during vision-intensive activities such as computer use or reading
    Using over-the-counter artificial tears, gels or ointments
    Wearing close-fitting glasses or sunglasses to prevent evaporation of tears

For more information about treating dry eye or about dry eye in general, contact us today.

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