Unbeknownst to many, “dry eye” is a condition that’s both chronic and typically progressive. This is not a simple matter of rubbing your eyes when they feel dry or itchy. To the contrary, Dry Eye Syndrome can be a major eye care issue that, while manageable, may need further intervention depending on its cause and severity. When dry eye is treated correctly, noticeably improved comfort, fewer symptoms and sometimes sharper vision can result.
To start, let’s discuss the common symptoms and causes of dry eye. Then we will dig into what causes dry eye as well as your many options for treating dry eye.
Classic symptoms of dry eye include:
- Stinging, burning or otherwise scratchy sensation in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery eyes (the body’s response to the irritation caused by dry eyes)
- Difficulty with driving at night
- Sensation of something “annoying” the eyes
- Difficulty wearing contacts
- Stringy mucus in or around the eye
The classic causes of dry eye include:
- Problems forbidding the eyelids to close the way they should
- Diseases that affect the ability to create tears, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and collagen vascular diseases
- Excessive screen use, including smartphones, tablets and computers
- Side effects of certain drugs such as antihistamines
- Natural aging process, notably menopause
Even when we’re happy, our eyes are full of tears, which provide moisture and lubrication to help us see and keep our eyes comfortable. Important to understand, in the midst of this analysis, is what tears are actually composed of.
Essentially, human tears are a mixture of:
- Water (for moisture)
- Oils (for lubrication)
- Mucus (for even spreading)
- Antibodies and special proteins that keep infections at bay
These elements are derived from special glands around the eye, and when the tear system is not functioning properly, dry eyes are often the result. Incredibly, dry eyes can sometimes create an excess of tears, a somewhat confusing condition referred to as “reflex tearing,” which occurs due to a lack of moisture that irritates the eyes. This sends a distress signal through the nervous system, one which demands instant lubrication – in response, the body sends a flood of tears to compensate for the dryness.
While all of this is fascinating on some level, what can you do if you have been experiencing dry eye symptoms?
You have a number of options agreed upon by many eye doctor professionals, including those in the Matossian Eye Associates team, but it’s still best to talk to your particular eye doctor regarding what to do in your specific case.
- Artificial Tear Drops and Ointments – This is a common treatment for dry eye, with many different types of drops available over-the-counter. If your eyes dry out when you sleep, you can use a product boasting a thicker consistency, such as an ointment.
- Temporary Punctal Occlusion – Your eye doctor might opt to close the punctum, or duct, which drains tears from your eyes. In this case, you may begin with a temporary plug designed to dissolve over time.
- Lifitegrast (Xiidra) drops – Xiidra works by blocking a certain protein on the surface of cells in your body. This protein can cause your eyes to not produce enough tears, or to produce tears that are not the correct consistency to keep your eyes healthy.
- Fish oil/omega-3 (added to diet) – Daily use of Omega-3 fatty acids has been found to reduce the risk of dry eyes.
- Lipiflow – This medical device uses heat and pressure to unclog blocked glands on your eyelids, keeping the eyes moist while preventing your tears from evaporating.
If you have concerns regarding dry eye syndrome, or if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, book a dry eye screening with Matossian Eye Associates today. Click here to schedule online, or call (800) 708-8800.