Many people have never heard of the ocular condition that takes its name from its primary symptom – dry eyes. Nevertheless, there are far more people suffering from dry eyes than you probably realize. You have likely experienced it yourself at some point during your lifetime, although it probably resolved itself without the need for professional intervention. Unfortunately, many people who experience dry eyes go on to become chronic sufferers of the condition. Their symptoms may get better or worse, but they never completely go away.
Dry eyes primarily occur for one of several reasons.
Your eyes aren’t making enough natural lubrication (which is supplied in the form of tear film).
The tear film that your eyes are making doesn’t have the perfect balance of nutrients needed to keep your eyes healthy and functioning comfortably.
The tear film you are producing is leaving the surface of the eyes too quickly, causing them to dry out.
The environment around you is causing your eyes to dry out, for example, if you work in an air-conditioned office.
You have a health condition, such as an allergy, which can affect the health of your eyes.
Exactly why some people develop dry eyes and others don’t isn’t always understood. However, there are some factors that are believed to make it more likely. These include:
Taking certain medications that list dry eyes as a side effect, such as some popular antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and anti-depressants
Having allergies, particularly of the environmental type
Working or spending time in dry, dusty and cold environments
Hormone fluctuations such as those seen in pregnant or menopausal women
Being over the age of 50, as the eyes lose some of their natural dehydration
Having poor general health
Having undergone LASIK
Wearing contact lenses
Excessive screen time
Unfortunately, people who suffer from dry eyes experience a range of symptoms that can affect their ability to see clearly and function from day to day. Some of these symptoms include soreness, a feeling like a foreign object is lodged in the eye, redness, irritation and excessive watering (which is the body’s water to try and counteract the dryness). Fortunately, there are a variety of treatments that can ease the discomfort of dry eyes.
Treatment for dry eyes nearly always begins with over the counter medications in the form of artificial tears. As their name suggests, this is the lubrication that is designed to mimic real tear film. There are various different eye drops available and many patients find that they need to try several different varieties in order to find the one that works best for them. Patients will also need to choose between those containing preservatives and those that don’t. As you may suspect, those that are preservative based can last the long term.
If over the counter artificial tears prove to be ineffective in relieving your dry eye symptoms, you may be given prescription medications. These are available both orally and as eye drops and the way in which they work is by reducing inflammation of your eyelids so that enough oil can make its way into your tear film. If there is insufficient oil in the makeup of your tear film, your lubrication will almost certainly evaporate too fast, causing your eyes to dry out. In some instances, you may be prescribed antibiotics to take. These are available as drops as well as orally and can reduce inflammation and stimulate the natural production of ocular oils.
Eye inserts are a popular treatment for dry eyes where other topical solutions have failed to be effective. These tiny plastic tubes that contain medication to prompt tear film production are placed between your eyeball and lower eyelids.
Punctual plugs also go inside your eyes. However, these tiny devices are inserted into the drainage channels to prevent the moisture from leaving the surface of your eye too quickly and leaving you with the symptoms of dry eyes.
Finally, you may wish to consider a warm compress placed over your eyes. Sometimes dry eyes occur because the glands that supply tear film to the eyes become blocked. Using a warm compress can help to loosen the blockage so that the tear film flows properly again. There is also a treatment called Lipiflow that uses thermal pulsation to remove any blockages from the glands so that the symptoms of dry eyes are reduced.
If you are concerned about dry eye, or if you would just like to schedule a consultation to discuss treatment for dry eyes, please get in touch by calling our offices and speaking to our expert team of eye care specialists in West New York, NJ.