Itching, burning, watering, red, irritated, tired eyes… what is a person to do? These symptoms are classic signs of Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), which affects millions of adults and children.
What causes this? Dry eye syndrome can be brought on by many factors: aging, geographical location, lid hygiene, contact lens wear, medications, dehydration, etc. The lacrimal gland in the eye that produces tears, in a person over forty years old, starts slowly losing function. Females with hormonal changes have a higher incidence of DES (dry eye syndrome). Dry, arid climates or areas with high allergy rates tend to have higher incidences of DES as well. Another major cause is increased screentime–when we stare at a computer screen or phone, our blink reflex slows way down. A normal eye blinks 17,000 times per day, usually producing enough tears to be symptom free, if not contenting with other factors. But blink rates go way down while using screens.
Blepharities, a condition of the eyelids, can cause a dandruff-like situation for the eye, exacerbating a dry eye condition. Contact lenses can add to DES, so make sure you are in high oxygen contact lens material if you suffer from DES. Certain medications such as antihistamines, cholesterol and blood pressure meds, hormonal and birth control medications, can also cause symptoms of a dry eye. Check with your pharmacist if you are not sure if your medication could be contributing to the problem.
And finally, overall dehydration can cause DES. Some studies show we need 1/2 our body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, if you weigh 150 lbs, you need approximately 75 ounces of water per day to be fully hydrated. If you are not at that level, it could affect your eyes.
Treatment for DES is varied, but the main treatment is a tear supplement to replace the evaporated tears. These come in the form of topical ophthalmic artificial tears. Oral agents that can help are Omega 3 supplements such as fish oil or flax seed oil pills. They supplement the function of meibomian glands located at the lid margin. Ophthalmic gels used at night, as well as humidifiers, can help keep your eyes moisturized. Simply blinking hard more often can cause the lacrimal gland to produce more tears automatically.
For stubborn dry eyes, retaining tears on the eye can be aided by punctal plugs. They act like a stopper for a sink, and they are painless and can be inserted by your eye care practitioner in the office. Moisture chamber goggles can also be used in severe cases to hydrate the eyes with their body’s own natural humidity. This may sound far out but it gets the job done.
Being aware of the symptoms and treatments for dry eye syndrome can prevent frustration and allow your eyes to work more smoothly and efficiently in your daily routine. If your eyes feel dry as the Sahara or they water too much, know that help is on the way through proven techniques and products. You do not need to suffer needlessly in the case of Dry Eye Syndrome anymore. Make an appointment to talk with your eye doctor about the best treatments for you!
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