Dry Eye Disease Not So Cut and Dry

by Julia King, O.D.

Dry eye disease, or dry eye syndrome, is a condition that affects millions of people. 

Unfortunately, it often goes undiagnosed as many people don’t realize that their symptoms are caused by dry eye. Dry eye syndrome occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears, or the tears that are produced are poor quality. A better understanding of the disease has led to newer treatment options. Fortunately, there are many treatments available to treat dry eye.

Certain risk factors can make someone more susceptible to dry eye. Autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and thyroid disease increase the chance of dry eye. Medications such as diuretics, beta-blockers, allergy and cold medicines, anxiety and antidepressant medication can also increase risk. Even living in a dry or windy climate can lead to dryness. Using contact lenses long-term can undoubtedly be a factor, as well as having had refractive surgery. Working on a computer or prolonged reading can lead to reduced blinking causing dry eye.

Some common symptoms of dry eye are:             

  • Stinging, scratching, or burning sensations
  • Watery eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurry vision, especially when reading
  • Redness
  • Stringy mucus in and around the eyes
  • Irritation when wearing contact lenses

There are many treatment options available currently. Artificial tears are a good option for mild dry eye. If artificial tears are used more than six times a day, a preservative-free artificial tear should be used. Thicker gel tears and nighttime ointments are also available. Prescription medications such as Restasis, Xiidra, or Cequa are good choices for moderate to severe dry eye. These medications help your eye produce more tears by reducing inflammation, which is thought to be the underlying cause of dry eye. Small plugs made of collagen or silicone can also be inserted into the tear drainage hole (punctum). The plugs slow drainage and keep more tears in the eye. Tyrvaya is a new treatment that was recently approved for dry eye. It is a nasal spray that works by activating nerve endings in your nose that, in turn, trigger the glands and cells around your eye to increase the production of your natural tears. For severe and chronic cases, autologous serum tears can be considered. These tears are custom-made using your own blood and are closer to real tears. They contain essential biological nutrients and immunoprotective proteins. This is thought to reduce inflammation and promote overall eye health. The downside is that these serum tears can be costly and are not covered by insurance.

Certain actions can be taken to help prevent dry eye. Blinking regularly when reading or staring at the computer is beneficial. A humidifier is recommended to increase the humidity in your home or office. Wearing wrap-around sunglasses when outdoors can help by reducing wind exposure. Drink 8-10 glasses of water daily to prevent dehydration. Also, do not allow air vents or ceiling fans to blow directly at your eyes. Nutritional supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may help some people.

A comprehensive eye examination with careful observation of the eyelids and surface of the eye diagnoses dry eye syndrome. If you feel you could have dry eye, please call our office to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at 800-282-3937 or visit us online at EYESFL.COM.

Dr. Julia King is an optometrist who practices at the Lake Wales location for Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida. She is currently accepting new patients.

This column is sponsored by Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFHN or of its advertisers.  

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