Suffering from dry eyes? You’re not alone. Dry eyes syndrome significantly affects more than five million Americans over the age of 50. Chronic dry eye affects twice as many women as it does men.
Dry eye syndrome, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, occurs when tears are unable to produce adequate moisture. Sufferers may also produce poor-quality tears that evaporate too quickly or don’t spread across the cornea.
Common dry eye symptoms include:
The risk for developing dry eye increases as we age, and while genetics and gender (as the condition affects more women than men) play a big part, your environment can also contribute to the condition.
Your eye doctor will perform a comprehensive examination with an emphasis on evaluating the quantity and quality of tears being produced. This is performed by using special dyes to observe flow and help visualize any changes that occur to the outer surface from insufficient production. This exam will also evaluate:
Your eye doctor will ask about any medications or environmental factors that may be contributing to your condition and note any other health problems that may be causing dry eye.
Get relief for your eyes with the below tips for preventing dry eye:
Staring at a computer screen, cell phone or television can take a toll because you may blink less. Blinking spreads fluid and oils across your pupils, keeping eyes moisturized. To combat screen strain, follow the “20-20-20 rule” – for every 20 minutes of screen time, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.
Research suggests adding more omega-3 fatty acids into your diet may help eye glands produce more oil, which helps reduce dryness and inflammation in your eyes. Sources of these fatty acids include catfish, salmon, albacore tuna and sea bass or fish oil supplements.
Over-the-counter eye drops or artificial tears can help lessen the symptoms of dry eye by mimicking natural tear production. Using a humidifier in your home may also help. Ask your eye doctor for a recommendation on the brand of eye drops right for you.
Every night before bed, apply a warm, wet washcloth to closed eyes and gently wash eyelids with a mild cleanser to remove possible debris, bacteria and remains from the day that could get into your eyes and cause irritation.
Certain prescriptions or over-the-counter medications can cause dry eyes or make symptoms worse. If your eyes are dry or irritated, provide a list of current medications to your primary care provider and eye doctor so together you can identify possible culprits and determine an appropriate treatment plan.