Dry eye syndrome is a common condition, especially in women over age 40. City Optometry specializes in the care of Dry Eyes at our Dry Eye Clinic. Many treatment options are available.
Signs and symptoms of dry eye
Persistent dryness, scratchiness and a burning sensation on your eyes are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. These symptoms alone may be enough for your eye doctor to diagnose dry eye syndrome. Sometimes, he or she may want to measure the amount of tears in your eyes. A thin strip of filter paper placed at the edge of the eye, called a Schirmer test, is one way of measuring this.
Some people with dry eyes also experience a "foreign body sensation" - the feeling that something is in the eye. And it may seem odd, but sometimes dry eye syndrome can cause watery eyes, because the excessive dryness works to overstimulate production of the watery component of your eye's tears.
What causes dry eyes?
Just because you’re in California, doesn’t mean the sun is the only cause for you to have irritable, dry eyes. In dry eye syndrome, the tear glands that moisturize the eye don’t produce enough tears, or the tears have a chemical composition that causes them to evaporate too quickly.
Dry eye syndrome has several causes. It occurs:
- As a part of the natural aging process, especially among women over age 40.
- As a side effect of many medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson’s medications and birth control pills.
- Because you live in a dry, dusty or windy climate with low humidity.
Dry eyes are also associated with certain systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea or Sjogren’s syndrome (a triad of dry eyes, dry mouth, and rheumatoid arthritis or lupus).
Long-term contact lens wear, incomplete closure of the eyelids, eyelid disease and a deficiency of the tear-producing glands are other causes.
Dry eye syndrome is more common in women, possibly due to hormone fluctuations. Recent research suggests that smoking, too, can increase your risk of dry eye syndrome. Dry eye has also been associated with incomplete lid closure following blepharoplasty – a popular cosmetic surgery to eliminate droopy eyelids.
How to prevent dry eyes?
Dry eyes is a very common condition. Proper tear ducts include oil, water, and mucus. When you blink, your eye is properly lubricated with those three items. When any of those liquids are off, it leads to issues with moisture on the eye which leads to dry eyes.
The following tips are ways you can prevent and avoid dry eyes:
- Wind can dry out the eye. If you need to be in a windy area, try wearing sunglasses
- A big culprit is allergies, particularly pollen
- If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes
- Insufficient blinking, such as when you’re staring at a computer screen all day. Take breaks from looking at the computer
- Avoid excessive ceiling fan use
- Don’t overwear your contact lenses
- Check if a medication you are taking can cause dry eyes
Treatments for dry eyes in San Francisco
We see tons of patients in our downtown San Francisco clinic complaining of symptoms related to dry eyes – itchiness, redness, grittiness, even excessive tearing. Dry eyes is a chronic condition that gets worse with age, meaning there is no cure for it. However, there are treatments to help you manage dry eyes.
There are two different types of dry eyes – either underproduction of tears or over evaporation of tears. Over evaporation of tears is know as blepharitis. This is inflammation of the edge of the eyelids where there is an increase in oil thickness in the eyes. This, in turn, causes the oil supply to the tears to not flow properly. Treatment can be the use of a hot washcloth on the eye to keep it moist. Scrubbing the eye with an item such as baby shampoo can also help.
In cases of underproduction of tears, our eye doctors would recommend lubricating eye drops or artificial tears that will help alleviate the dryness to the eyes. Prescription eye drops will even increase tear production in the eyes. It should be noted that contact lens wearers should consult with their eye doctor before using these drops and wearing their contact lenses. In some cases, our eye doctors would insert punctal plugs. These are tiny devices that are inserted in the drainage ducts of the eyes so the tears don’t evaporate quickly and rather stay in the eye, keeping it moist.
There are external causes of dry eyes such environment, weather, and computer use. Ceiling fans or the air conditioning blowing too hard can cause the tears to dry out. When using a computer, we tend to blink less so it’s important to remember to blink and allow your eyes a chance to keep moist.
There are a number of medical treatments and holistic remedies to help alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes. Speak to our eye doctors to learn more.
BlephEx™, a new treatment for blepharitis, is an in-practice procedure performed directly by your optometrist. Clinicians can now treat blepharitis instead of simply relying on the patient’s ability to perform semi-effective home lid scrubs. With BlephEx™ the clinician thoroughly and precisely eliminates the scurf and bacterial debris, the main causes of problematic lid disease.
- Dry eyes
- Itching or scratchy eyes
- Foreign body sensation
- Eye rubbing
Answers Your Dry Eyes Questions
Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the warmer spring and summer months?
A: Often times this is true, but some folks, like contact lens wearers, can be dry any time in the year.
Q: When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms and when is
it enough to take care of this problem yourself?
A: Non contact lens wearers should come in when the symptoms are bothersome or affect their daily routines. Contact lens wearers should come in sooner to avoid possible infections or for a brand refit if necessary.
Q: What is the examination like to determine whether someone is suffering from Dry Eyes?
A: A dry eye evaluation will include an assessment of the amount of tear available, the amount of evaporation that occurs within a specific timed test and an evaluation of the lid margins with a microscope to check for lid diseases like meibomitis, demodex or blepharitis.
Q: I have a friend in whose eyes are frequently overly watery. That isn’t Dry Eye, is it?
A: Yes, excessive tearing can happen with dry eyes or a blockage of the drainage system. When you have dry eyes, it causes irritation, esp. in wind or cold weather. This can cause the eye to increase the amount of tear or liquid. Excessive tearing may also be due to a blockage of the nasal canal.
Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
A: Depending on the cause of the dry eye, treatment can be done by increasing the amount of tear available, decreasing the amount of evaporation, an occlusion of the drainage system to prevent loss of tear or all three.
Q: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?
A: Women are 8x times more prevalent due to hormone imbalance. Certain eye or systemic diseases can result in dryness and some medications like anti-anxiety and anti-depressants can induce dryness.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
A: Blink often, take more computer breaks, stay hydrated, decrease caffeine, wear sunglasses in windy conditions.