Dry eye syndrome occurs when our eyes don’t make enough (or quality) tears, to keep our eyes wet. This can cause discomfort, and, in some cases, it can lead to vision problems. Approximately 344 million people worldwide suffer from dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome can make the simple act of blinking extremely uncomfortable. On the plus side, if you are one of those people, there are many things you can do to keep your eyes comfortable and healthy. Throughout the rest of this blog, we will touch on what dry eye syndrome is, factors that may contribute to dry eye syndrome, symptoms, management strategies, and when it is time to seek out the care of a professional.
There is a protective film of tears that coats the eye’s outermost layer. There are glands around our eyes that are responsible for keeping the moisture level of the eye balanced. This protective film of tears is crucial for comfortable and clear vision. If the tear glands do not produce enough tears to keep the eyes wet, individuals may experience dry eye syndrome.
There are many factors that may contribute to dry eye syndrome. These factors include age, environment, digital device usage, medical conditions, and medications. Age is the single highest factor of dry eye syndrome. As people age, there is a natural decrease in tear production and changes in tear composition. This is especially prevalent for individuals over the age of 50 (post-menopausal women are affected most). Various environments can also contribute to the evaporation of tears, which causes dry eye syndrome. Low humidity, wind, and exposure to air conditioning or heating systems are a few of the most common environments linked to dry eye syndrome. In today's world, we are exposed to digital devices more than ever before. Unfortunately, the use of digital devices over an extended period can reduce the amount you blink and contribute to dry eye symptoms. Medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases (type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis) and thyroid problems, increase the risk of dry eye syndrome. This is because these conditions can cause the body to attack glands that secrete fluid, which directly impacts the tear glands. Lastly, some medications can reduce tear production and increase dry eye symptoms.
A few of the most common symptoms of dry eye syndrome are dryness and grittiness, redness and irritation, watery eyes, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. Individuals with dry eyes often experience a foreign body sensation in the eye, dryness, and grittiness. Eyes with inadequate lubrication tend to become inflamed, so redness and irritation are other common symptom of dry eye. The body’s natural response to irritation from this dryness is to produce tears, because of this watery eyes and excess tearing are another common dry eye symptom. Individuals with dry eyes often experience blurry vision while participating in activities that require prolonged concentration, such as using a computer or reading. Lastly, individuals with dry eye experience discomfort in brightly lit areas because dry eye causes individuals to be more sensitive to light.
There are several effective management strategies individuals can use to keep their eyes comfortable and healthy. Over-the-counter artificial tear drops supplement tear production and lubricate the eyes which can provide temporary relief. Taking frequent breaks from digital devices can be very beneficial in managing dry eye symptoms. The 20-20-20 rule can be very beneficial for individuals experiencing dry eye symptoms. Every 20 minutes a person looks at a screen, they should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Using a humidifier and ensuring eyes are protected in windy conditions can help to manage symptoms. Omega-3 fatty acids can support overall eye health. Common food items omega-3 fatty acids are found in include fish, flaxseed, and chia seeds. In more serious cases of dry eye syndrome, prescription medication may be prescribed by your optometrist.
In cases of mild dry eye syndrome, symptoms can often be managed with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter solutions. If symptoms continue or get worse, individuals need to consult with an eye care professional. Our eye care professionals at Eyecare of Union Square can perform an evaluation to determine an appropriate treatment plan tailored to the individual's needs.
Dry eye syndrome can severely affect a person's quality of life. But the good news is that with appropriate management strategies and knowledge, relief is possible. Take proactive action to ensure your eyes remain comfortable and healthy and book your appointment with our knowledgeable eye care professionals at Eyecare of Union Square today.