Do your eyes feel dry and scratchy for prolonged periods? If so, you likely have a condition called dry eye, which is very common. People who have dry eye cannot produce enough tears to keep the eyes adequately moisturized. In Southwest Florida, dry eye treatment is available at Elmquist Eye Group.
What causes dry eye?
Tear fluid is made up of water, oils and mucus that mix together to keep the eye surface moist and clear of debris. Dry eye, the condition called keratoconjunctivitis sicca in medical terms, occurs when a patient has decreased tear production. It can also occur when the person suffers an imbalance in tear production and therefore cannot produce tears of adequate quality. Either way, the eye is not sufficiently lubricated.
Age is the primary reason a person develops dry eye. The condition is also more prevalent in patients with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders. If you have had eye surgeries such as laser eye surgery, you may have temporarily experience dry eye until the eye fully heals. Many people have tear glands that are damaged due to inflammation, and this also causes dry eye. Finally, certain medications can also contribute to the condition; decongestants and antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure drugs, and hormone replacement therapies are a few examples.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
Most patients report a bothersome scratchy sensation with dry eye. Patients also often experience stinging, burning and redness and may be sensitive to light. Many people with the condition have difficulty wearing contact lenses, reading or driving at night. Because the eyes are not properly lubricated, long mucus strands may also form in the eyes, and people with dry eye are also much more likely to develop eye infections because the tears (the first line of defense) are not adequate to protect the eye.
What are the risk factors?
Age is a significant risk factor, and people over age 50 are much more prone to developing dry eye. Females are at higher risk, as are contact lens wearers. People who lack sufficient dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin A are also at higher risk.
Can I prevent dry eye?
One of the best preventions for dry eye is to remove direct air sources like air conditioners, fans and heaters that blow directly into the eye and cause the tears to more quickly evaporate. Another tip is to add moisture to dry air. This is usually not needed in Florida, but if you are running dehumidifiers, the air might be too dry for your eyes. Try to prevent eye fatigue as much as possible. When we work on computers, we don’t blink as much and we also open our eyes wider, so be sure to give your eyes a break. Several times a day, close your eyes, then blink repeatedly. This will help evenly distribute the tear fluid. If you are a smoker, kick the habit and also avoid smoky rooms.
What are the treatments?
If you’ve had dry eye for a while, and if you are experience significant symptoms, it is time to see an Elmquist doctor. We will perform a thorough eye exam which includes tests for dry eye. We can prescribe eye drops or other medications and recommend vitamin supplements that might help. Dry eye is uncomfortable but very treatable, so come see us at Elmquist Eye Group for dry eye treatment in southwest Florida. Call us today to schedule an appointment.