Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe during the winter months?
The cold weather and the dry air can make this time of year particularly uncomfortable for the eyes and sometimes leads to a condition known as Dry Eye Syndrome. The air is typically drier during the winter months than at any other time during the year. In addition the cold winter winds are particularly irritating to the eyes. This can be especially uncomfortable for those that wear contacts since dry contacts can be very uncomfortable and irritating to the eye. The indoor conditions are also drier during the winter. The little moisture that is in the air is typically dried up due to winter heating. This can mean that the air inside is even drier and more irritating than the air outside. Both furnaces in the winter and air conditioning in the summer decrease the humidity in the air
Q: When should someone come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms?
If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you should have your eyes checked for Dry Eye Syndrome:
- A sandy or gritty/scratchy feeling as if something is in your eyes and you can not blink it out, this symptom can be constant or intermittent
- Stinging or burning eye
- Sudden watery eye
- Pain and redness of the eye
- Episodes of blurred vision
- Heavy eyelids
- Fatigued eye
- Itching eye
- Light sensitvitity
Also note that any of the above symptoms tend to worsen in dry or windy climates and with higher temperatures and lower humidity. In addition, symptoms may also be worse with prolonged use of the eyes and toward the end of the day.
Q: What do you check in order to assess whether a patient is suffering from Dry Eyes?
During your visit for dry eye assessment, an instrument called Slit Lamp is used which is essentially a microscope that allows Dr. Snider to observe different layers of your eye at a high magnification. The cornea and conjunctival tissue is carefully examined to assess if there is any tissue damage. The stability of tear film is assessed by oberving the quality and thickness of your tear film. There is a test done that shows how fast your tears break up in order to determine the level of dryness in your eyes. In addition to all tests done, the doctor will conduct a thorough history to help with the diagnosis of dry eyes.
Q: What are the common treatments that you use in order to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
There are some self-care remedies that may help with dry eyes. For instance a humidifier puts more moisture in the air. If you are exposed to large amount of dust or other particulates in the air, it is helpful to use air filter. When traveling you will be exposed to extremely dry air. If you are a contact lens wearer, either avoid wearing your contact lenses during flights or use lubricating drops approved to be used with contact lenses to help keep you symptom free. Essential Fatty acids (Fish Oil Supplements) can help with dry eyes. When you find yourself staring at computer or TV monitors for continuously long time, it helps to take a break every 10 minutes by closing your eyes for 10 seconds. In addition to self-care home remedies, there are different types of treatments that doctors recommend depending on the underlying cause of your dry eyes. There are artificial tears, thick lubricating drops or ointments, eyelid wash (such as Ocusoft Foam which you can purchase from our office Elite Eye Care) that can be used. Keep in mind that you should not self treat and use any artificial tears that you can get over the counter. Eye drops should be recommended by your eye doctor based on the type of dryness you have. There are also medication drops that the doctor might elect to use in order to reduce inflmmation in your eyes to help with dry eyes. In addition, depending again on reason for your dry eyes, the doctor might use procedures such as gland expression or punctal plugs.
Q: My eyes frequently are overly watery. That isn’t Dry Eye, is it?
Typically when your eyes are dry, your body’s defense mechanism is to produce more tears in order to keep your eyes moist. Unfortunately, this excess water/tears in your eyes is not really providing effective moisture. That is why you will continue suffering from dryness and will have the overly watery episodes that would increase over time if not addressed.
Q: Are there certain people that are more prone to having Dry Eyes?
List of conditions that would make you more prone to having Dry Eyes are:
- Increasing Age
- Female Sex
- Aisan ethnicity
- Postmenopausal females on hormone replacement therapy especially estrogens alone
- Occupational or environmental factors such as: low humidity, high room temprature, wind exposture, pollution, poor air quality, smoking, and reduced blink rate due to prolonged computer use
- Certain Systemic Diseases associated with dry eyes are vitamin A deficiency, autoimmune/connective tissue disease, hepatitis C infection, HIV Infection, Sjögren’s syndrome, sarcoidosis, diabetes mellitus, and androgen or estrogen deficiency
- Different medications including systemic chemotherapy, diuretics, antidepressants, antihistamines and beta-adrenergic blockers may cause dry eyes as a side effect of the medication.
- Refractive surgeries such as LASIK
- Contact lens wear espcially if you do not follow proper care and guidelines
- Diet low in Omega-3-Fatty Acid
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
Make sure you are aware of blinking regularly espcially with prolonged computer use. Avoid dusty and windy environments. Consider taking Essential Fatty Acid (Omega 3 Fatty Acids) daily. Eating fish such as sardines, anchovy, and salmon at least three times a week, will help with the intake of fish oil naturally. If you do not like fish, you can take Fish oil supplements. Avoid getting dehydrated by drinking water daily. If you are a contact lens wearer, adhere to timely contact lens replacement and using a proper solution and care. As a contact lens wearer, make sure you have an updated glasses as a back up pair and use it at the end of your day for few hours each night before going to bed and do not sleep in your contact lenses.