Q&A for Dry Eyes
Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the warmer spring and summer months?
For some patients, yes. Dry Eye is often aggravated by environmental circumstances, including any modifications that reduce air humidity. This can be in the form of air conditioning in the summer months, or heat in the winter months.
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?
Patients should really see their optometrist at the first symptoms of dry eye. The reason for this is two-fold. Frist off, it’s much easier to treat Dry Eye Disease in its early stages, before the inflammation becomes chronic. Allowing dry eye to go untreated for an extended period of time can result in permanent damage, such as atrophy of the meibomian (oil secreting) glands. Secondly, with specialized equipment the optometrist is able to determine the specific cause for your dry eye symptoms, and thus able to target therapy accordingly (resulting in more effective treatment).
Q: What is the examination like to determine whether someone is suffering from Dry Eyes?
Optometrists have many tools to determine the cause and severity of Dry Eye Disease. We may use fluorescein dye to determine the quality of your tear film and amount of inflammation on the front of the eye (cornea). Furthermore, we will evaluate the lids and look for the presence of blepharitis (inflammation along the lids, often caused by bacterial infection or clogged oil glands). At Optomeyes, we also have the ability to measure Tear Film Osmolarity, which provides a quantitative measure of dry eye, that can then be used to monitor efficacy of various treatments.
Q: I have a friend in whose eyes are frequently overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?
Although counterintuitive, Dry Eye Disease quite commonly results in tearing. Similar to if you were poked in the eye, the cornea is irritated and this excess nerve stimulation causes “reflex tearing”. Unfortunately, these tears are mainly just water, and because they don’t have the lubricating properties of healthy tears, dry eye symptoms remain.
Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
The treatment of dry eye depends on both the severity and the underlying cause. One type of dry eye may require treatment of the oil glands, including daily hot compresses and omega 3 supplementation. Another type of dry eye may be caused by inflammation and/or infection of the lids and may require an antibiotic or anti-inflammatory medication. Furthermore, in some patients, their dry eye results from decreased production of tears and this may require punctal plugs (placing stoppers in the drainage system to keep tears on the eyes).
Q: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?
Yes. The most common demographic to suffer from dry eye is post-menopausal females. Recent research, however, is demonstrating that both males and females suffer from dry eye much more commonly and at much younger ages than previously thought. Furthermore, certain medications can exacerbate dry eye (diuretics, oral contraceptives, blood pressure medications, ADHD medications, antihistamines). Lastly, patients with underlying inflammatory or autoimmune diseases are more likely to suffer from severe dry eye (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disease, etc).
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
Recognize the symptoms and go to your optometrist. Follow his/her instructions closely and attend follow up appointments to prevent your dry eye disease from progressing.
Environmental modifications:• Increased fluid consumption• Blinking fully and being aware of blink frequency• Taking breaks during near work/ screen work• Avoiding fans/ air conditioners/ heaters, especially when air flow is in the vicinity of the eyes