If your eyes feel dry and scratchy for a prolonged period of time, you might have dry eye. This condition is very common in people who cannot produce enough tears to keep their eyes adequately moistened and lubricated. At Elmquist Eye Group, we treat many patients with dry eye. The article below tells more about the condition.
Dry eye usually occurs in both eyes. The medical reference for dry eye is keratoconjunctivitis sicca. A person either has decreased tear production or produces poor quality tears that do not adequately lubricate the eye.
The fluid that makes up tears is a mixture of water, mucus and fatty oils that keep the eye surface clear and moist. Some people have decreased tear production while others have an imbalance in the tear composition.
Aging is the primary cause, and dry eye is also more common with certain medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders to name a few. People who have had laser eye surgery may have dry eye, but the condition is usually temporary. If tear glands become damaged due to inflammation, a person can experience dry eye, and certain medications can cause the condition: decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure drugs, antidepressants and hormone replacement therapies.
Signs and Symptoms
People with dry eye typically experience a scratchy sensation in the eyes. Your eyes might sting or burn, be red, and might be sensitive to light. You may also have long strands of mucus that form in the eyes. Most people find it difficult to wear contact lenses, read, or drive at night with this condition.
The condition makes a person more prone to eye infections because the tears are not there as a first line of defense. Severe dry eye can lead to eye inflammation or abrasion of the surface of the eye.
Some people are more at risk for dry eye, including people who:
- Are over age 50
- Are female
- Have a diet low in vitamin A
- Lack omega-3 fatty acids in their diets
- Wear contact lenses
There are quite a few ways to prevent dry eye. First, don’t have air conditioners, fans or heaters blowing air directly into your eyes because the air movement can cause the tears to evaporate much more quickly.
Add moisture to the air. This is typically not a problem for us here in Florida, except perhaps in winter when you are running the heater and air is drier. Always wear protective eyewear in the bright Florida sun to block damaging rays and wind.
If you read or work on the computer for most of your day, give your eyes a break. Close your eyes and blink repeatedly to help distribute your tears evenly across your eyes. Be sure that your computer screen is positioned below eye level. If it is positioned above eye level, you will unknowingly open your eyes wider to view the screen.
Finally, don’t smoke, or stop smoking. Avoid being in smoky places.
Dry eye is a very common condition, but if you have had prolonged symptoms, it is time to see a doctor to take steps toward treatment. At Elmquist, we will do a thorough eye exam and tests for dry eye to determine the best remedy for your eyes. Dry eye is an uncomfortable condition, so don’t stay uncomfortable one moment longer. Come see us at Elmquist Eye Group at one of our three convenient locations. Call us today to schedule an appointment.