Some people do not produce enough tears to keep the eye comfortable, resulting in a condition known as dry eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Typical symptoms of dry eye include:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
- Irritation from smoke or wind
- Excess tearing
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Possible Causes of Dry Eye
There are many causes of dry eye. Listed below are some of the most common:
- Natural lessening of tear production as you age
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications that interfere with tear secretion
Treatment of Dry Eye
Several treatment options can ease the symptoms of dry eye. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Artificial tears (available in over-the-counter)
- Omega 3 Fatty Acid Oils (a dietary supplement)
- Restasis (a prescription medication drop)
- Punctal Plugs (silicone plugs that reduce the natural drainage of tears out of the eye)
Other steps to help ease or prevent dry eye include: using a humidifier, wearing wrap-around sunglasses, using hot compresses at least once daily, avoiding wind or hair dryers, and avoiding cigarette smoke.
Help for Dry Eyes
You’ve heard the expression “not a dry eye in the house”—but for 77 million Americans that statement couldn’t be farther from the truth. ‘Dry eye syndrome’ is one of the most common eye conditions in the United States, particularly in women over the age of 35. The cause of dry eye syndrome is unknown, but the condition becomes more common as we age.
In healthy eyes, a thin layer of tears coats the outside surface of the eye and keeps it moist. Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eye doesn’t make enough tears, produces ineffective tears, or when the tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to dryness, stickiness, and stinging or burning of the eyes. Sometimes the eyes water excessively in an effort to soothe the irritation, but these reflex tears are usually not enough to fix the problem.
Dry eye syndrome affects women two to three times more often than men—a statistic thought to be attributable to hormones. Male testosterone seems to be good for the tear glands, while estrogen in women has the opposite effect. In fact, in a recent study, women who were on hormone replacement therapy after menopause had up to a 70% higher risk for developing dry eyes than women not using hormone replacement therapy.
If you experience dry eye conditions, don’t delay in speaking with your doctor. Dry eye syndrome is more than a nuisance—left untreated, severe cases can lead to inflammation, infection, and scarring of the eye surface that can result in permanent sight loss.
Today, there are many treatment options to help those who sufferer from Dry Eye:
Often, small adjustments to your daily habits—such as smoking cessation or aiming heating and air-conditioning ducts away from your face—can lead to improvement.
Diets high in the omega-3 fatty acids found fish, nuts, or supplements can also reduce dry eye symptoms.
For others, tear replacement drops can help re-establish moisture to the eye or small plugs placed in the tear ducts can prevent tears from draining away too quickly. In addition, a new prescription medication called cyclosporin—marketed under the brand name Restasis®—is now available to help your tear glands produce more of your own natural tears.
Call today to set up an appointment with one of our doctors who can help develop a treatment plan that’s right for you.
Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s webpage on Dry Eye.