Have you heard of Dry Eye Disease? One in three people over the age of 50 suffer from it. It’s common yet you don’t hear much about it.
It’s not necessarily just a product of where you live. People who live in humid regions are known to suffer from dry eyes as well.
There’s many factors that can cause dry eye disease (DED) but to counter that, there are several ways to treat it as well.
It’s may seem like more of an irritant than anything else but it can cause damage to your eyes.
So, What is Dry Eye Disease?
If you have DED you may notice a “sandy” or “scratchy” feeling in your eye. Like something is in there, but you can never find it.
Other signs might be burning, itchy or tired eyes. You may find your sensitive to light, have blurred vision, red eyes, or difficulty moving your eye lids.
The main medical causes of this are two-fold. You can either suffer from “Aqueous Tear Deficiency Dry-Eye” or “Evaporative Dry-Eye” – which is a bit more complicated.
Eyes are like onions, they have layers. There’s a tear film (or “mucus layer”) that coats the eye so that tears stick. On top of that is a hybrid layer composed of water and oil which prevents the tear film from evaporating.
So, without the oil in the hybrid layer, your tears evaporate very quickly, drying out the eye leading to “Evaporative Dry-Eye”.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
DED has so many likely causes that it’s often difficult to narrow it down.
The number one thing to consider is any pre-existing medical conditions that may have dry eyes as a symptom. Medicine you’re taking could also be causing DED. It’s best to review your medications to see if any of them have dry eyes listed and then talk to your doctor, or pharmacist, about an alternative.
There’s several environmental causes too, such as dry air, strong or frequent winds, and dusty areas. If you know you’re going to be working in a dry or dusty location, it’s best to wear eye protection.
I know it can be tempting to sit directly in front of a fan during these hot summer months, but it’s best to avoid eye contact with air blowing from air conditioners (or heaters).
Your everyday activities can be a factor as well. Try not to spend too long reading, on the computer, or watching TV in one go. Take frequent breaks from these activities and focus on blinking.
Ensure when you’re on a computer, to adjust the screen to be below eye level. This will help you not keep your eyes open wide while looking at it.
Avoiding irritants like tobacco smoke is an important consideration as well.
Treating Your Dry Eyes
“Artificial Tears”, also known as “Lubricants”, can help moisten your eyes to relieve symptoms. These are typically available over the counter.
These medicines usually come as eye drops, gels, or ointments. Eye drops are usually easiest to use, and you can use them multiple times a day.
Ointments tend to work better than anything else, however they make your vision blurry. It’s best to use these before bed (when sight is less important).
Try to avoid eye lubricants/artificial tear products that contain the preservative benzalkonium chloride, as it tends to be more of an irritant and can worsen the symptoms over time.
Some studies have shown that daily use of an omega-3 supplement has been associated with an improvement in dry eye symptoms, so patients may be advised to consume foods or supplements rich in omega-3.
The above products are not a cure. If your dry eyes are a recurring issue, it’s best to talk to the Pharmacists at Capsule or your doctor to see what form of treatment would work best for you.
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