Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe during the winter months?
Yes, we do see an increase in the number of patients coming into our clinic complaining of dryness. During the cold winter months we use more heat which in turn creates drier conditions that increases the evaporation of a patients natural tear volume.
Q: When should someone come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms?
My rule of thumb is: if a patient's eyes are dry and lubrication doesn't help or only relieves the symptoms for a few minutes to a few hours than they should seek help. Many patients wait until their eyes are extremely uncomfortable before they seek help. Unfortunately, the discomfort is so severe that treatment can take longer and be more involved than if the dryness was treated earlier.
Q: What do you check in order to assess whether a patient is suffering from Dry Eyes?
We take a careful history of from the patient than examine and measure the tear layer to see if it has both the proper composition and volume. We will also apply a temporary dye that highlights dry and desiccated areas of the eye to help us pinpoint treatment.
Q: What are the common treatments that you use in order to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
Treat can range from frequent lubrication, ointments at bedtime, oral antibiotics, fish oil in the form of omega 3, hormone treatment, topical drops to stimulate tear production or punctal occlusion. Treatment of dry eyes has to be tailored to an individuals condition. Does the patient have a deficiency of tears or decrease volume? Is the tear volume normal but the oil layer component lacking so the tears evaporate too quickly? Is their an inflammatory condition from a bacteria that is common to the lid area that is causing the dryness or do they have an autoimmune disease? Are their eyes dry secondary to medications they may be taking such as oral contraceptives, blood pressure medication, antidepressants etc.?
Q: My eyes frequently are overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?
That is a great question. If an eye is dry, when a patient goes outside and it is either windy or cold it can cause an increase in the dryness followed by irritation which will stimulate fluid production, This is not a normal tear but more like the fluid that is created when a person cries. A physical condition can also cause an eye to be overly watery: With age, the normal muscle tone of the lids can change so that the lids can sag. When this happens the liquid layer in the eye is not directed towards the nose where the lids have a drainage system for excessive tears.
Q: Are there certain people that are more prone to having Dry Eyes?
Women are 8 times more prone to having dry eyes. Hormones play a huge role in dry eyes and women as they reach pre- or post menopause can develop drier eyes
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
Making sure that you are in good physical and mental health plays a huge role in preventing or lessening the effects of dry eyes because many of the systemic medications used to treat these conditions can also cause dry eyes. Drink plenty of water and avoid too much caffeine.