Dry eyes is a very common and potentially debilitating condition for some people. There are many causes of dry eye and many levels of discomfort. Healthy tears are vital to your eyes functioning correctly. Your tears are a very important part of your eye’s immunity, cleaning system and optical pathway.
What are the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?
Feeling like you have something
Pressure feeling behind the eyes
Persistent eye fatigue
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
There are many causes of dry eye syndrome. You will notice some causes are easily controlled by you while other causes like gender and age are not. Understanding the causes helps you prevent and treat dry eye symptoms so you can be comfortable all day and enjoy clear vision.
Here is a list of the most common causes. You may experience one or more of the causes.
- Gender – women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause.
- Medications like antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants reduce tear production.
- Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems typically increase dry eye symptoms.
- Too many birthdays – as you age you, the risk of less tear production increases over time.
- Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. Inflammation of eyelids or the surface of the eye causes dye eye symptoms and is easily controlled by you! See Dr. Bonnin’s eyelid inflammation/blepharitis care plan for a treatment plan. Click here.
- Staring at the computer, tablet or phone causes you to blink less. Blinking spreads tears around providing clear vision. You can try to blink more but it’s difficult to control how much you blink. You can stop for a minute and blink more but you can’t change how many times you blink per minute.
- Environmental conditions: climate, wind, dander, dust, pollen, pollution, and exposure to smoke all pull the moisture out of your eyes and evaporates the tears.
- Eye makeup is the biggest culprit of dry eye symptoms. Makeup flakes into the lower lid margin and causes grittiness, dryness and over all discomfort. You can’t see it but you feel it.
- Long-term use of contact lenses.
- Refractive eye surgeries like LASIK contribute to the decrease in tear production.
Why Do You Need Tears?
Tears wash away the foreign matter; dander, dust, pollen and pollution that lands in your eyes. Tears lubricate and nourish the eye and provide protection from eye infections. Dry eyes occur when tear production and drainage are not in balance. Dry eye patients either don’t produce enough tears or their tears are of a poor quality.
Can It Be Managed?
If dry eye syndrome is not treated it can advance and may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision. Dry Eye Syndrome is easily managed. The goal is to restore and maintain the normal amount of tears to minimize dry eye symptoms. Treatments range from simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter solutions to prescribed solutions. The simplest approaches include adding tears, conserving tears, increasing tear production and finally treating any inflammation of the eye or eyelids. Here are some tips:
Some simple lifestyle changes can prevent dry eye syndrome from progressing to advance stages. To keep eyes healthy, comfortable and to prevent your vision from being affected here are a few lifestyle changes you can implement yourself.
- Take breaks from the computer. Look away from your monitor like out the window for a good 20 seconds.
- Use good lighting over your workspace, computer and reading area.
- Don’t over-wearing contact lens. Wear as directed.
- Turn down the desk fan or ceiling fan or turn it away from your face.
- Get 8 hours of sleep.
- Drink 8 glasses of water to hydrate your eyes from the inside out.
- Wear sunglasses to avoid wind and the sun which are both drying.
- Sleep with a humidifier. Comfortable humidity levels are from 30% to 60%. The dry Arizona climate is about 15% on average.
- Use artificial tears to lubricate eyes and relieve the dry, scratchy feeling and that feeling that something is in your eye. Artificial Tears can be used as often as needed. You can also use a spray specifically designed to soothe eyes. You can find this at www.eyedocstore.com/spray.
- Wash eyelids and lashes morning and night with Ocusoft Lid Scrub Plus Platinum Foaming Eyelid Cleanser or similar cleanser. Don’t worry about getting soap in your eyes this scrub is designed specifically for cleaning eyelids and lashes. Use generously. It will not burn or sting. The scrub removes eye makeup left behind from removers, makeup remover residue as well as pollen, dust, dander and pollution that gets trapped in lashes and eyelids. This works better than plain water and will not harm your eyes like other soaps.
Proper Makeup removal
- Wash eyelids and lashes morning and night with Ocusoft Lid Scrub Plus Platinum Foaming Eyelid Cleanser. Don’t worry about getting soap in your eyes. This scrub is designed specifically for cleaning eyelids and lashes. Use generously. It will not burn or sting. The scrub removes eye makeup left behind from removers, makeup remover residue as well as pollen, dust, dander and pollution that gets trapped in lashes and eyelids. This eyelid “soap” works better than plain water and will not harm your eyes like other soaps.
- Do not sleep in your makeup. If you wake up with “gunk” in the corner of your eye that’s makeup! Makeup reside leaves your eyelids inflamed. You want your eyes to recover while sleeping and when you sleep in makeup your eyes are working overtime to keep them clean. By the way, inflammation increases the signs of aging. Eliminate inflammation by removing makeup every night.
- Apply makeup outside the lash line and away from your eye to avoid blocking the oil glands that help protect your eye’s surface.
- Avoid applying makeup to the inside of lash line. If you like the look of eyeliner inside the lash line save it for special occasions and for short periods of time as opposed to everyday.
- Avoid powdery, metallic, or glittery makeup. Flakes can get into your tear film and cause irritation.
- Click here for Dr. Bonnin’s True Guide to Eye Makeup Removal and & Lash Cleansing.
Increase the Quality of Your Tears
It has been proven that Omega-3 fatty acids or commonly know as fish oil improve eye health. Taking a high does of Omega-3 significantly helps with dry eye conditions. The essential fatty-acids found in Omega-3 produce potent anti-inflammatory agents which reduces the inflammation that occurs in blepharitis and other dry eye conditions. Omega-3 also helps regulate the oil from eyelid oil glands (meibomian glands) making eyes more comfortable.
Before you purchase a fish oil product read Dr. Bonnin’s article on fish oils. They are not all created equal. Click here.
Prescription and Medical Procedures
Dry eye is a complex disorder and can range from mildly annoying to completely disabling and life altering.
Your doctor can determine if your eyelids and/or eye surface is inflamed. The goal is to treat the inflammation first. Your optometrist can prescribe eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage to help alleviate symptoms. There are now prescription eye drops designed to increase the tear production and help you manage dry eye symptoms. Your doctor can also prescribe a steroid for immediate short-term relief.
A couple of examples of products that enhance tear production are Restasis and Xiidra. Restasis is an eye drop that increases your eyes’ natural ability to produce tears, which maybe reduced by inflammation due to Chronic Dry Eye disease. Restasis is different than artificial tears. This is a prescription medicine. Also Xiidra is very promising. It is also prescription eye drop to treat signs and symptoms of dry eye disease.
A simple lid treatment called BlephEx has shown to give chronic suffers relief. It is a painless in-office procedure to very precisely and carefully removes scruff and debris and exfoliates eyelids. Blepharitis is a chronic, inflammatory disease of the eyelids caused by an overgrowth of normal bacteria living along the lid and the base of the eyelashes. The overgrowth of bacteria produces a biofilm that traps scruff and debris along the eyelashes and harbors bacterial exotoxins along the lid margin. These exotoxins penetrate the eyelid tissue causing low-grade inflammation, which adversely affects the tear glands, turning down tear production. Fewer tears containing fewer antibodies allow even more bacteria accumulate and a vicious cycle is established, leading to chronic irritation and dry eye. Click here for Dr. Bonnin’s eyelid inflammation/blepharitis care plan for a treatment plan.
For severe and persistent red eye cases there are advance treatments that include technology that opens and cleans blocked glands like Lipiflow Thermal Pulsation treatment. It is more expensive solution but about 79% of patients report improvement of their dry eye symptoms. Before going to this extent lifestyle changes and over-the-counter solutions should be tried first. Work with your doctor to determine the best strategy that works for you.