Do your eyes often burn or feel dry and itchy? You may have dry eye syndrome. This condition affects between five and 50 per cent of people.
The good news is that there are treatments to help your eyes feel better. Keep reading to learn about ways to control dry eye problems.
What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Each time you blink, tears spread across your eyes. The tears come from tear ducts located at the corner of your eye by your nose.
Tears wash out foreign matter and help to decrease the risk of getting infections. They also keep your eyes moist which protects the surface of the eye.
Dry Eye Syndrome refers to a condition in which the eyes don’t have adequate or balanced tear layers.
Factors that Increase Your Risk for Dry Eye Syndrome
There are many different factors that can cause dry eyes. This is most often seen in women over 40 years of age. Problems related to dry eyes include the following:
- Clogged eyelid oil glands (blepharitis)
- Decreased blinking especially associated with prolonged screen time
- Environmental irritants such as wind, smoke (including tobacco), and dry climates
- Eye surgeries to correct vision such as LASIK
- Failure of the eyelids to completely close during blinking or sleeping
- Long-term use of contact lenses
Some medications decrease tear production. Examples include:
- Blood pressure medications
- Oral contraceptives
Dry eyes may occur in people with ccertain medical conditions. Example of some of these diseases include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjögren’s Syndrome
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Vitamin A deficiency
Normal tears contain oil, mucus, and water. These medical conditions can disrupt the balance of these three main tear layers.
Dry Eye Syndrome Symptoms
People who have dry eye syndrome often describe several symptoms. Common complaints often include:
- Red, dry, or irritated eyes
- Burning or swelling in the eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Blurry vision
- Soreness or sensitivity of the eyes
- Pain or discomfort in the eyelid
- Feeling like they have something in their eye
If you experience these symptoms often for prolonged periods of time, talk to your doctor. They can help relieve these symptoms.
Dry Eye Syndrome Treatment
Eye doctors start by screening for medical conditions related to dry eyes. They often begin with conservative treatment. If this doesn’t help, they’ll move on to other treatment modalities.
The following describes different dry eye treatments.
1. Artificial Tears
Dr. Jade recommends trying artificial tears first. “This can be a good start. It helps to find out if you are having allergy problems.”
The artificial tears provide lubrication to relieve dryness, irritation, and swelling. Choose preservative-free eye drops to decrease the chance of a reaction to the drops. This is especially true if you’re using them more than four times a day or using more than one type of eye drop.
If you use more than one eye drop, wait five minutes between different doses. This keeps them from becoming diluted so they can provide a better effect. You may also want to try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
2. Warm compresses
Applying warm compresses to your eyes adds moisture and soothes the irritation. If you have blepharitis, this helps open the glands and loosen and drain clogs. Avoid massaging your eyes because this can spread germs to your eyes and eyelids.
3. Protective Sun Wear
Your eyes need protection from the sun’s UV-A and UV-B rays just like your skin. Choose high-quality sunglasses that wrap around to block sun rays and wind. This will also keeps dust and other objects from getting in your eyes.
4. Prescribed Eye Medications
If the previous interventions haven’t helped your dry eyes, it’s time to try other treatments. Your clinician may order prescription eye drops.
Cyclosporine drops, such as Restasis® or Xiidra® suppress the immune response. The goal is to decrease eye swelling. You must use these drops for a while before you notice improvement.
Corticosteroid drops such as fluormetholone, FML, and Flarex® help decrease swelling. These drops are often used for only a short time.
Eye ointments such as VitaPos® are often prescribed for individuals who have lagophthalmos. This is a condition where your eyes don’t close completely when sleeping.
Lagophthalmos causes dryness and exposure of the eye surface. If not treated, the front of the eye can become damaged. Patients put the ointment in each eye before going to sleep to keep the eyes moist.
5. Punctal Plugs
In moderate to severe cases of dry eye syndrome, the doctor may recommend punctal plugs. The puncta is the term describing the opening of the tear duct in the eye.
Punctal plugs are tiny devices about the size of a grain of rice. They’re inserted into the puncta to stop fluid from draining into your nose from your eye. Thus, the eye’s surface stays moist and relieves symptoms.
There are several different types of punctal plugs used depending on the patient’s needs. There are two main types of plugs.
This type of plug is made from polymers or collagen and lasts from seven to 180 days. Some dissolve on their own. Others require removal using saline irrigation.
Some patient situations require nonabsorbable plugs. Examples of this type of plug includes the following.
Capped plugs are made of biocompatible silicone or acrylic. They have a skirt or flange that fits in the puncta. Most people aren’t aware of this after a few days.
Intracanalicular plugs are made with a soft jelly-like material called hydrogel. The clinician places this into the puncta. In about 10 minutes, the plug expands and moulds to fill the tear duct.
Thermoplastic plugs are made from a heat-sensitive, hydrophobic acrylic polymer. This material is rigid when placed in the puncta. After exposure to body temperature, it softens into a gel that creates a plug.
Are You Looking for Quality Eye Care?
Having dry eye syndrome can create daily discomfort and even vision problems. At Eye Expressions, Dr. Jade and Dr. Sarah offer a variety of vision care services. They conduct routine eye exams and diagnose eye and vision problems.
Our team offers state-of-the-art treatment ranging from vision correction to cataracts and glaucoma. We also treat children’s eye health to protect normal early development.
Send a message to Dr. Jade and Dr. Sarah’s office in Lloydminster, Alberta to book an appointment.