If your eyes ever sting, scratch or feel like there’s a piece of stand stuck in them, you may be suffering from dry eyes, one of the most frequent vision problems seen by Eye Doctors. In fact, it’s estimated that over 20 million U.S. adults experience symptoms of dry eye.
Dry eyes naturally occur with age but can also impact people who wear contact lenses, have allergies, undergo LASIK surgery, live in dry climates or spend long hours in front of the computer screen.
Treatments for dry eyes typically focus on increasing tear production, adding artificial tears or conserving tears. Some people find relief by blinking more frequently, staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye, and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. With each blink of the eyelids, tears spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or their tears are of poor quality and evaporate too quickly.
Insufficient amount of tears
Poor tear quality
Tears are made up of three layers: oil, water and mucus. Each component protects and nourishes the front surface of the eye. A smooth oil layer (Lipid) helps prevent evaporation of the water layer (Aqueous), while the mucous (Mucin) layer spreads the tears evenly over the surface of the eye. If the tears evaporate too quickly or do not spread evenly over the cornea due to deficiencies with any of the three tear layers, dry eye symptoms can develop.
What causes dry eye?
Dry eyes can develop for many reasons, including:
Dry eyes are a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eye.
Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause.
Certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce tear production.
People with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) or inflammation of the surfaces of the eye can cause dry eyes to develop.
Exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
Long-term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can decrease tear production and contribute to dry eyes.
Treatments for dry eyes look to restore or preserve the normal amount of tears in the eye to minimize dryness and to maintain eye health.
Increasing tear production
It is widely recognized that inflammation has a significant role in the development of dry eye, promoting ocular surface disruption and symptoms of irritation. Taking a nutritional supplement rich in anti-inflammatory properties such as Omega-3 fatty acids, Flaxseed oil, Borage oil or Turmeric root may improve tear production and quality. Your Eye Doctor can also prescribe eye drops that may increase tear production.
Adding artificial tears
Mild cases of dry eyes may be managed using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. These can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production. People that don’t respond to artificial tears alone will need to take additional steps to treat their dry eyes.
By blocking tear ducts, natural tears can remain in the eyes longer which may reduce the symptoms of dry eyes. Tear ducts can temporarily be blocked with tiny silicone plugs or permanently from surgical procedure.
You can take the following steps to reduce symptoms of dry eyes:
Remember to blink regularly when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.
Increase the humidity in the air at work and at home.
Wear sunglasses outdoors, particularly those with wraparound frames, to reduce exposure to drying winds and the sun.
Avoiding becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water (8 to 10 glasses) each day.
Nutritional supplements formulated specifically for dry eye relief, such as EyeRelief by Doctor’s Advantage, may be exactly what you need to relieve your dry eye symptoms. Ask your Eye Doctor if EyeRelief is right for you.
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