Estimates suggest that as many as 48% of U.S adults regularly experience dry eye. However, many of these people are unaware that they are suffering from a very real but also treatable condition. Dry eye occurs for a variety of reasons. Some patients don't produce enough tear film, or the quality of their tear film is affected. Others will find that their tear film is draining too quickly, causing their eyes to become dehydrated. How do you know if you are affected? Here’s what you need to know about the signs and symptoms of dry eyes.
Many of the symptoms associated with dry eye can be mild and easily overlooked or ignored. However, for some patients, their symptoms may become severe enough to have a negative impact on your quality of life. Some of the signs of dry eye to be aware of include:
Eyes that are sore and may look red and swollen
Eyes that feel gritty
You may feel that you need to widen your eyes to ‘stretch’ them
You may find yourself blinking repeatedly to try and lubricate your eyes or to achieve focus
Eyes are more watery than normal, which is actually your body’s emergency response to a lack of tear film
Sensitivity to light
Patients may experience one or a combination of these symptoms.
Although dry eye can affect anyone, there are some factors that increase your likelihood of developing the condition. Dry eye is twice as common in women as it is in men. It is also more prevalent among people over the age of 50. You may also be more at risk of suffering from dry eye if:
You wear contact lenses
You take certain medications, including some antidepressants and blood pressure drugs
You spend a lot of time looking at digital screens without a break
You spend time in air-conditioned or artificially heated environments
Your environment is cold, dusty, dry or windy
You drink more than the recommended levels of alcohol
Patients with certain medical conditions are also more likely to experience dry eye. These include:
Blepharitis: a condition characterized by swollen, red and itchy eyelids.
Lupus: an autoimmune disorder that causes joint pain, skin rashes and tiredness, as well as dry eyes.
Sjögren’s syndrome: a condition that affects parts of the body that produce fluids, like tears.
If you are concerned that you are at risk of dry eyes, it’s worth asking your eye doctor if there are any steps you can take to help minimize your risk of developing the disease.
Being diagnosed with dry eye is the first step to getting the help that you need to overcome your symptoms and thankfully, there are a selection of successful treatments that can help. Every patient is different and identifying the cause of your dry eyes will be crucial to ensure that you are offered the right treatments that will be effective in alleviating your symptoms. Some of the potential treatment options include:
Eyedrops, including artificial tears, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy eyedrops.
Trying new contact lenses.
Topical gels and ointments.
Punctal plugs to prevent tear film from leaving the eyes too quickly.
Meibomian gland expression to remove any blockages in the ducts that produce oil for tear film.
LipiFlow thermal pulsation.
Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) therapy.
In addition to these treatments, there may also be lifestyle changes that your eye doctor can recommend that may help to get the symptoms of dry eye under control.
If you have additional questions about dry eye and would like more information about the signs and symptoms of the condition, or to schedule an appointment to discuss your concerns, don’t hesitate to speak to our dedicated team at our Richmond office (804) 353-3937 or our Midlothian office (804) 888-8998.