Dry eyes or dry eye syndrome (DES) is an ongoing condition involving your tears that treatments may be unable to cure. But the symptoms of dry eye—including dryness, scratchiness and burning—can usually be successfully managed. Visit Northwest Vision Center for relief.
It is very important that your eyes stay clean in order to stay healthy. Tears help keep your eyes clean. Glands behind your upper eyelid create tears, and each time you blink, the tears flow across your eye. These tears keep your eyes moist. The tears then flow into your tear ducts, located on your eyelids' inner corners, and then out of your eyes.
With dry eye syndrome, your tear glands don't make enough tears or your tears evaporate too fast. Anyone can have dry eye syndrome, although this problem is much more common in older adults. For many people complete symptom relief is possible.
What causes dry eyes? Dry eyes can be caused by routine activities, like looking at a computer screen, or being outside in the sun and the wind. Being exposed to cigarette smoke can cause dry eyes, as can being tired, and the simple fact of aging. Certain medications can cause dry eye, and dry eyes can result from LASIK surgery, and overuse of contact lenses.
How do we treat dry eye at Northwest Vision?
Your optometrist may recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eyedrops that may alleviate the dry, scratching feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production.
There are certain things you can do to help your dry eyes by making small changes in your everyday habits. To reduce the effects of sun, wind and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound styles offer the best protection. When you are indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that's too dry because of air conditioning or heating. Eye doctors sometimes recommend special nutritional supplements containing certain essential fatty acids to decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water may also relieve symptoms.
For more significant cases of dry eye, your eye doctor may recommend punctal plugs. These tiny devices are inserted in ducts in your lids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes more moist.
If medications are the cause of dry eyes, discontinuing the drug generally resolves the problem. But in this case, the benefits of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of dry eyes. Sometimes switching to a different type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while keeping the needed treatment. In any case, never switch or discontinue your medications without consulting with your doctor first.
Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.
If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until your dry eye condition is successfully treated. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.
Contact Lenses and Dry Eye
If you wear contact lenses, be aware that many artificial tears cannot be used during contact lens wear. You may need to remove your lenses before using the drops. Wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them. For mild dry eye, contact lens rewetting drops may be sufficient to make your eyes feel better, but the effect is usually only temporary. Switching to another lens brand could also help.
Check the label, but better yet, check with your doctor before buying any over-the-counter eye drops. Your eye doctor will know which formulas are effective and long-lasting and which are not, as well as which eye drops will work with your contact lenses.
To read more about the symptoms and causes of dry eyes, visit Your Eye Health.