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.
If your home or office has air conditioning or a dry heating system, that too can dry out your eyes. Another cause is insufficient blinking, such as when you’re staring at a computer screen all day.
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.
Treatments for Dry Eye in San Francisco
Dry eyes or dry eye syndrome (DES) is an ongoing condition that treatments may be unable to cure. But the symptoms of dry eye—including dryness, scratchiness and burning—can usually be successfully managed.
Your optometrist may recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops that may alleviate the dry, scratching feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eyes go one step further: they help increase your tear production. If you wear contact lenses, be aware that many artificial tears and prescription eye drops cannot be used during contact lens wear. You may need to remove your lenses before using the drops. Wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them.
For more significant cases of dry eye, your eye doctor may recommend punctal plugs. These tiny devices are inserted in ducts in your lids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes more moist.
To reduce the effects of sun, wind and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound styles offer the best protection. Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating. Drinking more water may also relieve symptoms.
If medications are the cause of dry eyes, discontinuing the drug generally resolves the problem. But in this case, the benefits of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of dry eyes. Sometimes switching to a different type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while keeping the needed treatment. In any case, never switch or discontinue your medications without consulting with your doctor first.
Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.
If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until your dry eye condition is successfully treated. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.
To read more about the symptoms and causes of dry eyes, visit Your Eye Health.
Source: Dry Eyes Syndrome, article by AllAboutVision.com. ©2009 Access Media Group LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction other than for one-time personal use is strictly prohibited.
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.