Dry eyes are one of the most common eye conditions to affect us, but many of us aren’t even aware that we have experienced the condition. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, dry eye affects nearly 5 million adults aged 50 and above, and most of us can expect to experience it at some point during our lifetime. Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms and causes of this condition, and what treatment is available should you be affected.
The symptoms of dry eyes can be fairly subtle and easily overlooked. Nevertheless, if you experience any of the following on an ongoing basis, it is important that you speak to your eye doctor to see if you are suffering from dry eyes:
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Gritty, irritated eyes
- Itching, burning of the eyes
- Excess watering, which is the body’s natural over-response to dry eyes
Dry eyes occur because of a problem with the production or distribution of natural tear film, which provides lubrication for our eyes. Dry eyes can be caused by a variety of different factors. Some of the most common causes include:
- The natural aging process. Dry eyes are particularly common in people over the age of 50.
- Being female. Women are more likely to suffer from dry eyes than men, and it is especially common during the menopause.
- People who spend a great deal of time using screens. This is because we naturally blink less when we use screens, and this means that we aren’t prompting tear film to be spread across the eyes as often as it should.
- Diseases that affect your ability to make natural tear film. Some diseases, such as collagen vascular diseases, can inhibit tear film production.
- Taking certain medications. Some types of medication, including some beta-blockers and antidepressants, list dry eyes as a common side effect.
- You have an issue with your eyelids which means that they don’t function in the way that they should.
There are several different stages of treatment that you can consider which will help to alleviate your dry eye symptoms.
Before you even explore treatments recommended by your eye doctor, there are some things that you can do at home that will help to alleviate the symptoms of dry eye, and potentially even prevent future instances from occurring. These include the following:
- Taking regular screen breaks from the computer, laptop, smartphone, and other digital device screens
- Wear sunglasses when you are outdoors to protect your eyes from any wind that could dry your eyes out even more
- Drink plenty of water so that you, and your eyes, don’t become dehydrated
- Ensure that the environments in which you spend the most time have a reasonable amount of humidity
- Consider taking supplements that contain fatty acids as these have been proven to boost eye health
There are many different types of eye drops available from drug stores, grocery stores, and other outlets, as well as online. These tend to be known as artificial tears since they are designed to simulate natural tear film and can be placed into your eyes multiple times each day to lubricate them.
There are a number of dry eye treatments that are only available on prescription. These include the following:
- Tear-stimulating drugs: these are available as eye drops, pills, gels and more and boost your natural tear film production.
- Anti-inflammatories: inflammation has been shown to be a contributor to dry eyes, and anti-inflammatories can control this and reduce your symptoms.
- Antibiotics: again, these help to counteract inflammation that is contributing towards causing your dry eyes.
- Eye inserts: these are tiny inserts of medication placed between your lower eyelid and eyeball that dissolve slowly and release a substance that lubricates your eye.
- Autologous blood serum drops: made with a sample of your own blood, this solution has been shown to be effective in helping reduce the symptoms of dry eyes.
If the treatments listed above are not successful in providing you with adequate relief from your symptoms, you may be recommended to try one of the following treatments:
- Lipiflow: this treatment uses thermal pulsation to gently heat and massage the meibomian glands which are responsible for producing the oils in the tear film. Unblocking these glands can eliminate symptoms of dry eyes.
- Punctual plugs: these tiny silicone plugs are placed into the tear ducts to prevent tear film from draining too quickly.
- Intense-pulsed therapy: this is another technique used to liquefy and release hardened oils that have blocked the meibomian glands.
If you would like to talk to us about dry eye, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our office where our team of experienced eye care specialists will be happy to help.