Do you suffer from dry eye?

Do your eyes often burn for no apparent reason? Is your vision sometimes foggy with no clear cause? Do your eyes itch despite the fact that you don’t have allergies? All of these symptoms indicate a potential dry eye problem. Other symptoms include feeling like something is in your eye, excessive watering and blurred vision.

Dry eye is caused by not enough tear production or from poor quality of tears produced, both resulting in insufficient moisture to lubricate and nourish eyes. If excessive watering is an issue, consider asking “Why do my eyes water so much?“ to help evaluate the situation since it may also indicate dry eyes.

What causes dry eye?

There are a variety of causes of dry eye. For starters, dry eye can simply come with age. In addition, more women than men suffer from dry eyes due to changing hormones. Some medications as well as many medical conditions can also cause dry eyes.

Long-term contact wearers as well as those who have had LASIK surgery also tend to have more problems with dry eyes. In addition, certain diseases such as Sjogren’s Syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis can affect one’s ability to make tears thus contributing to dry eyes. Finally, a person’s environment could also be the source of dry eye problems.

What can be done about dry eye?

Fortunately, there are many solutions available for dry eye sufferers. The following are the simplest and commonly the most helpful.

  1. Eye drops add artificial tears to lubricate eyes. Drops are available over the counter and provide an easy solution for mild cases of dry eyes. Prescription drops are also available from a doctor when OTC versions fail to work.
  2. Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to bring relief for dry eyes. Because other nutritional deficiencies can also contribute to dry eye, evaluating diet and nutrition may be useful for a more preventative approach.
  3. Safety Glasses can help when a person’s environment is the culprit. Dry, dusty and smoky environments ““ such as in mines, machine shops and constructions sites ““ often cause dry eyes, and safety glasses can help protect eyes in these environments.
  4. Sunglasses help reduce dry eye problems caused by squinting in sunlight as well as by wind and other outdoor elements. Wrap-around styles especially help combat these environmental causes of dry eye.
  5. Hydration not only benefits the body as a whole, but it also helps reduce dry eye by giving the body adequate supplies for tear production. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, which experts say means 8-10 glasses of water daily.
  6. A humid environment aids in keeping eyes moisturized. Even a small, inexpensive humidifier makes home and work environments more eye friendly.
  7. Blinking gives eyes a break from staring at a computer screen or other object for long periods of time as well as promotes tear production. Many optometrist recommend applying the 20-20-20 rule to help reduce dry eye symptoms and visual focusing problems that often result from tired eyes.
  8. Ergonomics not only impact an individual’s musculoskeletal health but can also contribute to dry eyes. A 2005 New York Times article reported that when people squint to reduce glare or bring text into focus, they blink less and reduce tear production which leads to dry eye problems. An ergonomic work station can prevent squinting and as a result also aid in preventing dry eyes.
  9. Adequate ventilation provides yet another way to combat dry eyes. This is especially applicable in a setting with dry air or with dust particles in the air that can make tears unable to adequately coat eyes. Adjusting ventilation and installing a simple air filter to service the room you work in can help in reducing these types of problems.
  10. Treat inflammation around the surface of the eyes. Prescription eye drops, ointments, warm compresses, lid massages and eyelid cleaners can reduce inflammation around the eye that may be contributing to dry eye problems.

Note that sometimes the best solution is a combination of the above suggestions. However, if the above suggestions fail to provide adequate relief, additional and more invasive solutions such as surgery and plugging eye ducts are additional options.

What’s the first step?

First and foremost, anyone suffering from chronic dry eye should see an optometrist for a thorough evaluation. An eye doctor can determine if a serious health problem is the cause and can also give experienced advice in helping find the best solution. In addition, seeing a family doctor for any related health problems and possibly medication adjustments is also a good idea for combating dry eyes.