Dry eyes are a common problem for anyone who spends a lot of time reading or staring at a computer screen all day, or for people who spend a lot of time exposed to sunlight and wind. In many cases there are easy solutions to help reduce the feeling of dryness or irritation, but in some cases additional help from a professional may be necessary. Here are a few things to know about dry eye problems and what you can do to find relief.
By definition, dry eye is caused when tears are unable to adequately lubricate the eye. This can be caused by insufficient tear production or poor quality of tears. According to Dr. Aris P. Delianides, ophthamologist, founder, medical director and chief surgeon at Atlantic Eye Consultants, there are three layers that make up the tear film: the outer oil layer, the middle water layer, and an inner mucus layer.
“The core mechanism of dry eye is inflammation,” he explains. “Certain topical drops are used to reduce inflammation and increase tear production. RESTASIS® and Xiidra® are two common types of these drops. Artificial tears are used to replenish the tear layer but sometimes occlusion of the tear drainage is required in more severe cases not responding to topical drops.”
According to Dr. Delianides, dry eye can also be associated with underlying medical conditions such as thyroid problems, Sjogren’s syndrome, arthritis, allergies, previous LASIK surgery, use of antihistamines, and certain other medications. He recommends it is best to see an ophthamologist if the use of artificial tears fails to relieve symptoms or if there is redness, pain, light sensitivity, or a change in vision.
To avoid problems with dry eye, Dr. Delianides recommends avoiding over-the-counter antihistamines as much as possible. He also advises that you should always protect your eyes from excessive wind and sun, and avoid running ceiling fans, especially at night as many people do not sleep with their eyelids completely closed, and the air movement can cause dryness. He further advocates using artificial tears while reading or using the computer, as these activities can be associated with decreased frequency of blinking.
For those who wear contacts, Dr. Alison Mercer with Tidewater Eye Centers, says that dry eye syndrome (also known as keratoconjunvtivitis sicca) need not worry. “In most cases, with some lifestyle adjustments and proper contact lens selection, those with dry eye can still wear contact lenses comfortably,” she says. “First and foremost, the dry eye condition should be treated and stabilized. Then it is important to select a lens most appropriate for the patient’s condition. My favorite option is a single-day replacement lens. Essentially, that means each day a brand new lens is opened and inserted, then thrown away at the end of the day. This is the healthiest and most sanitary option. It eliminates the solution systems to clean the lens that can sometimes exacerbate the problem. It is also important to realize that with dry eye, a patient may need to reduce wear time, use artificial tears or rewetting drops, or use contact lenses on a part-time basis.”