Although, for many people, dry eye is only a small and temporary problem, it can be highly uncomfortable, and sometimes have an impact on their daily lives, by preventing them from being able to complete normal tasks. Dry eye disease, or dry eye syndrome, is a highly common condition that occurs throughout the world. It takes place when the eyes are incapable of making the right amount of tears to keep the eye moist, or if those tears evaporate too quickly to have a lasting beneficial effect. When the eyes cannot produce tears as they should this leads to the eye drying out, and a sensation of inflammation, irritation, and discomfort.
Although dry eye conditions are very common across the United States, and indeed throughout the world, it’s worth noting that many people don’t understand the details that go into defining dry eye syndrome.
The following are twenty of the most important facts to know about dry eye.
1. The Symptoms of Dry Eye Vary
First of all, the symptoms of dry eye are far more complex than a “dry sensation”. These symptoms can appear either gradually or suddenly, and can last for a period of hours, or even days. Common symptoms of dry eye include:
- eye pain
- feeling of grit in eye
- swollen eyes
- excessive tear production
- itchy eyes
- twitching eyelids
Most people aren’t aware that frequent eye watering is actually one of the most common symptoms associated with dry eye syndrome.
2. There Are Different Levels of Dry Eye
Although a large number of people suffer from dry eye syndrome, not all of them will experience the same level of severity. There are actually four levels of severity of dry eye which can range from mild discomfort to severe pain or chronic disease. While the first two levels can be highly uncomfortable, they are often treatable with over the counter remedies such as ointments, gels, and eye drops. On the other hand, more aggressive prescription or steroidal treatment may be required for the higher eye discomfort levels.
For people with a severe level of dry eye problems, the treatment may be surgery.
3. Dry Eye and Inflammation Are Connected
Most people do not realize that dry eye is considered by experts to be an inflammatory process. This means that treatments may require a focus on inflammation, even when there are no visible signs of inflammation around the eye or eyelids. Often, omega-3 and fish oil supplements are recommended as a natural way of reducing inflammation, and drinking plenty of water can also be important.
If you are suffering from dry eyes, it can be worth speaking to your doctor about the treatments that could work for you, and the underlying problems that may be responsible for your condition.
4. There Are Numerous Treatments
Although, at this point, we have yet to discover an effective cure for dry eye syndrome, there are a number of effective treatments available. For example, options for dry eye treatment might include:
- Warm compresses or artificial tear drops – the use of artificial drops is one of the primary treatments for dry eyes, as are warm compresses to reduce inflammation.
- Punctual occlusion – surgeons can perform a procedure that blocks the drainage duct that allows tears to drain into the nasal cavity, this keeps tears in the eyes for longer.
- Restasis – an FDA approved prescription eye drop known as Restasis can be used for treatment of chronic dry eye. This medication relieves the symptoms of dry eye and helps to promote the natural production of tears in the body. Note there are many negative side effects in taking Restasis please caution against it.
- Surgery – Blepharatomy can be an option in manually unblocking the Meibomian glands.
- Omega 3 Fish Oils – The long-chain omega-3 fatty acids in fish oils, have been linked to the reduction of inflammation in a number of different ways. In fact, considerable research show that the acids in fish oils: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) can improve the condition of various eye disorders, particularly macular degeneration.
5. What You Eat Matters
Eating well is one of the best ways to care for your eyes, particularly if you aim to get a lot of nutrients into your food. Eating vitamins instead of taking them can help to improve eye health, and green leafy vegetables are full of zeaxanthin and lutein, which reduce your risk of eye disease. Vitamin A, which can be found in bright orange and yellow vegetables, is ideal for improving eye health, and fruits that contain vitamin C and antioxidant fight off eye disease. Cold-water fish and salmon also include plenty of omega-3 which is essential for tear production.
6. Smoking Causes Eye Problems
The best way to reduce dry eyes and other eye problems is to cut out smoking. When you smoke, the dangerous chemicals can get into your blood stream and damage your eyes, placing you at higher risk of problems like dry eyes and cataracts. This unhealthy habit can also increase your chances of macular degeneration, which is a condition that can destroy the vision in the center of the eye.
7. Computer Work Can Lead to Dry Eyes
Working on a computer, which is something many people do today, can contribute to the development of dry eyes. In part, this is because when we are working on something up-close, we do not blink as regularly as we usually would. Paradoxically, this can lead to one of the most common symptoms of dry eyes, which is excessive watering. The less you blink, the more the mucous and oily layers of the eyes that keep tears from evaporating will break down, and the eye compensates by producing more water, leading to watery eyes at your desk.
8. Protecting Your Eyes from the Sun Can Help
One way to help protect your eyes from dryness is to ensure they have adequate defense when you go outdoors and get exposed to the sun or on a particularly windy day. Any sunglasses that you buy should have complete protection against both UVB and UVA waves.
9. Certain Diseases Can Cause Dry Eyes
Although there are many factors that can lead to dry eyes, certain diseases are common causes, and numerous conditions have dry eye as a side effect. For example Sjorgen’s syndrome is a devastating, yet non-life-threatening disease that causes excessive dryness within the entire body. The victims of this disease are typically women, and often Sjorgen’s is frequently misdiagnosed as menopause. Other diseases that may cause dry eye syndrome include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- dry tear film
- collagen vascular disease
- rosacea, blepharitis, meibomitis
- congenital eye problems
10. Medications Can Cause Dry Eye
Various medications can be responsible for increasing the symptoms of dry eye syndrome or causing eye dryness in the first place. While different people will react differently to medications, it’s worth making a note of drugs that might cause eye dryness if you are already pre-disposed to such conditions. Medications responsible for dry eyes include:
- birth control pills
- sleeping pills
11. Dry Eyes Are Linked to Age
An estimated number of over five millions Americans over the age of 50 currently suffer from some level of dry eye problem. Aging is naturally responsible for bringing on certain changes in the body that weaken and change the function of the eyes. Dry eyes are extremely common, as when we age, our body naturally produces less moisture, and our eyes become more sensitive to factors such as light and wind.
12. Menopause and Dry Eyes Are Linked
Insomnia, hot flashes, fatigue, and mood swings are generally associated with menopause, but 60% of the women who experience these signs also experience symptoms of dry eyes. Women who are approaching menopause can often experience dry eyes as a result of hormonal imbalances, and dry eyes during this stage can sometimes be a signal that something else is wrong within the body.
13. There Are Natural Treatment Options
Various herbal and nutritional supplements are effective at reducing the discomfort associated with dry eye. For example:
- Biotears Formula can provide dry eye relief
- Black currant seed oil creates essential fatty acids to promote circulation.
- Coenzyme Q10 Antioxidant can be used to reduce dry eye symptoms
- Vitamin A moisturizes eye tissues.
- Fish oil moisturizes eye tissues.
- Chamomile supports and strengthens eye tissues.
- Goldenseal supports eye tissues but shouldn’t be used during pregnancy.
14. Environment Can Alter Dry Eye Risk
Living in a dry hot-spot can aggravate the symptoms of dry eyes and make your life far more difficult. If you suffer from dry eye syndrome then it’s often a good idea to avoid moving to some of the windiest, dustiest, and driest parts of the country, such as Texas. It’s important to avoid locations that have extreme hot or cold temperatures which may lead to dehydration, as well as areas that have extremely low humidity and high wind levels.
High altitudes can also be a problem for people with dry eyes, as are areas that have a number of pollutants in the air.
15. Spring Makes Dry Eyes Worse
Most people who suffer from dry eye find that they suffer more in the spring months, when the volume of allergens is peeking. Researchers have found that the prevalence of dry eye peaks in springtime, along with the existence of allergies and other seasonal problems. It can be a good idea to wear glasses outside to reduce your eye exposure to pollutants, and use air filters inside.
16. Pollution Causes Dry Eye
Dry eye syndrome is often diagnosed as a more significant problem in cities that have higher levels of pollution. Cities such as New York, Chicago, Miami, and Los Angeles typically have higher instances of dry eye syndrome because of damaging pollutants that are responsible for irritating the eye and disrupting the natural tear production process.
17. Tests Are More Reliable than Symptoms
The best way to know whether or not you actually have dry eye syndrome, or you are simply suffering from a temporary instance of dry eye, is to have your doctor perform a test during an eye exam. Symptoms are poor predictors of the severity and presence of dry eye disease, as they can differ significantly from one person to the next. Some people with only very mild dry eyes find their symptoms to be very severe, whereas other people with significant problems do not consider their symptoms to be bad enough to visit a doctor.
18. Women Are More likely to Suffer
According to studies, women are between two and three times more likely to suffer from dry eyes than men. Part of the reason for this is that women undergo menopause, which can lead to dryness throughout the body, as well as a number of other symptoms. In addition, various medications that come with ocular side effects will be prescribed more frequently to women. For example, hormone replacement therapies for pre-menopausal women, and birth control pills for women of childbearing age, have both been shown to increase the risk of dry eye, as well as pushing asymptomatic patients towards a symptomatic form of the syndrome.
19. Your Eyes Say a Lot About Your Health
Many experts and doctors agree that the eyes can act as a good overall indicator of a person’s health. For example, if a person goes into a doctor’s surgery suffering from dry eyes, that doctor will often ask a number of questions to determine whether the eyes are a symptom of a more significant underlying disease. For example, dry eyes can be a marker of thyroid disease, arthritis, or lupus. Patients who are suffering with blurry vision, on the other hand may have had a stroke, or be suffering from a tumor. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to pay attention to eye health.
20. Dry Eye Is a Common Condition
Finally, dry eye syndrome is a very common condition, and it’s estimated that anywhere up to 30% of the population will experience dry eyes. This equates to around 90 million people throughout the United States.
Resources and References:
What is Dry Eye Syndrome? – Information on the causes and risks of dry eye syndrome. (TotalEyeCare.com)
The Facts on Dry Eye – Infographic about facts and statistics associated with dry eyes. (Visually)
A Complete Guide to Dry Eye Syndrome – Extensive information about dry eye, causes, treatment, symptoms and more. (EyeHealthWeb.com)