The symptoms of dry eye can be very subtle at first.
Many people feel as if they have something in their eye. Their eyes may become easily tired. Wearing contacts may be uncomfortable.
“Your eyes may sting, burn and water. You may find you have troubles seeing to read or seeing thecomputer screen after extended periods,” said Dr. Paul Griffey, an ophthalmologist for Griffey Eye Care and Laser Center.
Dry eye can affect young people and many adults, especially women, according to the National Eye Institute. Nearly 5 million Americans over the age of 50 are estimated to have dry eye. Roughly 60 percent of them are women.
“As women go through hormonal changes, they often develop dry eye syndrome,” said Dr. Griffey.
Dry eye, a temporary or chronic condition, occurs when the eye doesn’t produce enough tears or when the quality of tears is reduced. Dry eye can also happen when the eyelid is not positioned properly against the eye. Age is a common risk factor.
Left untreated, dry eye can lead to pain, ulcers or scars on the cornea. Permanent loss of vision is uncommon.
Treating Dry Eye at Griffey Eye Care and Laser Center
The first step to treating dry eye is to make an appointment with your eye doctor to receive a proper diagnosis. It’s important to determine whether dry eye is caused by an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed.
Some of the causes of dry eye include:
• antihistamines, nasal decongestants, prescription medicines
• skin diseases on and around the eyelids
• infrequent blinking – from staring at computer or video screens
• immune system disorders such as Sjögren’s syndrome, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
• chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva, the membrane lining the eyelid and covering the front part of the eye, or the lacrimal gland
• exposure keratitis – when the eyelids stay open during sleep
• loss of sensation in the cornea from long-term contact lens wear
• excessive dosages of vitamins
• hormone replacement therapy for women
People who have dry eye can improve their symptoms by making simple lifestyle changes such as wearing sunglasses and glasses that fit close to the face to slow tear evaporation, using an air cleaner inside to filter dust and adding moisture to the air with a humidifier.
Most people find relief by using artificial tears to lubricate the eye. Available over-the-counter, patients should consider choosing preservative-free tears to avoid any allergic reaction to some of the ingredients.
“If drops are not enough, there are several other steps we can take to improve the patient’s dry eyes,” Dr. Griffey said.
Some patients may need a prescription to increase tear production. Others might need to have their tear drainage system plugged or surgery to tighten the eyelid area.
At Griffey Eye Care and Laser Center, we’re committed to helping patients improve their eye health. Protect your vision by taking good care of your eyes. Make an appointment to see one of our eye specialists at our offices in Chesapeake or Norfolk.
Source: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health