Dry eye issues are common amongst many adults, and can result in chronic symptoms of irritation and discomfort. Treatment involves a staged approached, based on the severity of your condition and your symptoms.
Dry eye disease is a common condition that affects millions of Americans every year. Dry eye is more common if you are age 50 or older, wear contact lenses, are female, or have an autoimmune condition like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren syndrome. Symptoms include a stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation in your eyes. It can include eye redness, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.
Causes of dry eye involve in many cases decreased tear production. Common causes of this decrease include aging, medical conditions including auto-immune conditions, thyroid conditions, and Parkinson’s disease. Medications associated with the drying of the eyes include antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, blood pressure medicines, and hormone replacement therapy.
In the prevention of dry eyes, it is helpful to first start by looking at environmental factors. Using a humidifier to increase the moisture in the air, avoiding smoking and cigarette smoke, avoid air blowing at your eyes, and also taking breaks during long tasks on the computer or reading.
For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, it’s enough to use over-the-counter artificial tear drops. There are many excellent brands available in the pharmacy, and if your eyes are extra-sensitive, you may use the preservative-free formulations. In our clinic we have a step wise approach to dry eyes, with tears of various consistency as the first line, and thicker gels and nighttime ointments as a second line of treatment.
We often combine this with a short course of a mild steroid eye drop medication, and consider punctal plugs in more severe cases. These plugs serve as small ‘stoppers’ to keep your tear on the surface of your eye for a longer duration of time. Adjunct therapy can also include prescription medications to promote increased tear production by your tear glands. These medications include Restasis, Xiidra, and Cequa. Some patient have found benefit with adding Omega-3 Fatty acids to their diet.
Interested in learning more? Check out the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s page on dry eye.
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