What is dry eye?
It is a chronic inflammatory disease associated with deficiencies in the quantity and quality of the tear film.
The tear film is a complex system made of three different layers, each of which plays a unique role in the health of the eye’s surface.
People suffering from dry eye may experience a gritty feeling in the eye. They may also present a sensation of pain, tension, or fatigue in the eyes, often accompanied by blurred vision.
The prevalence of dry eye increases rapidly, and its impact on a person’s quality of life can be profound. Simple activities such as using the computer, reading, and driving can be negatively affected by this condition.
Dry eyes are often caused by a problem with the eye’s tears. Tear problems can be caused by the environment, drugs, or health conditions.
Low humidity, wind (sleeping with a fan), and smoke are environmental factors that can cause problems with tears.
Extreme outdoor temperatures also cause low indoor humidity.
Even with a humidifier, we usually apply heat or air conditioning more in extreme conditions, causing our knuckles to break, lips to die, and eyes to burn.
Other low humidity environments include aircraft and large buildings, such as shopping centers, office buildings, and hospitals.
Allergens and smoke also cause tears to evaporate more quickly.
Drugs that often cause dry eye include:
- Sedatives, sleeping pills, cold remedies, or pills for anxiety.
- Pills for allergy.
- Medications for blood pressure.
- Eye drops are medicated as drops for glaucoma.
- Your ophthalmologist can help you identify drugs that may be causing your symptoms.
Health conditions that can cause dry eye include:
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Parkinson’s disease
- Previous eye surgery.
Finally, any visually intensive task, such as reading a book, looking at a computer, or watching television, causes it to blink less frequently. Blinking less leads to eye fatigue and dry eyes.
For each hour of reading or watching television, take a break and look away from the screen for at least 20 seconds. Blink frequently and consider using eye drops. Avoid eye drops with an analgesic or allergic component.
If you must sleep with a fan on or other air moving, use a gel or eye ointment drop. These treatments will help keep your eyes moist at night.
Add nuts and fish like salmon to your diet. Both contain omega-3 fatty acids, which help the oily tear layer look more like oil instead of shortening.
The more fluid the layer is, the better it spreads through the upper part of the tears, avoiding evaporation. If you are allergic to nuts or do not like fish, try a fish oil supplement.
If symptoms persist, consult an ophthalmologist. Ophthalmologists are doctors trained to treat eye diseases medically and surgically.
They will make a complete medical history and a complete eye exam to determine all the factors contributing to dry eye syndrome and prescribe the treatment.
Be patient with your body; the dry eye can not be cured like the pink eye with a cycle of antibiotic drops. It is a chronic condition that requires changes in lifestyle and, often, medical treatment to maintain the best possible eye condition.
Can it cause more serious eye problems if dry eye is not treated?
In some cases, dry eye can cause permanent damage and loss of vision if left untreated. Chronic desiccation, or extreme dryness, of the eye’s surface, can cause scarring and even infectious ulcers.
The key is to identify the disease early when the treatment can be more effective and the damage can still be reversed.
The time to visit the ophthalmologist is not once the loss of vision occurs but earlier in the disease when the symptoms are only perceived as a “nuisance.”
With so much innovation in treatment and diagnostic options, people suffering from dry eye symptoms should take advantage of the services of a visual health professional.