Do you suffer from irritated or dry eyes? Boston eye surgeon Dr. Ernest Kornmehl can identify the various dry eye causes and symptoms to help you take the first steps towards dry eye relief. Dr. Kornmehl also understands that it is important to be properly evaluated for the condition if you are considering laser eye surgery so that the refractive procedure can be properly tailored to your unique situation.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a chronic condition that occurs when a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to adequately moisturize and nourish the eyes resulting from inadequate production or rapid evaporation. Tears are critical for eye health and clear vision, and when the quantity or quality of the tears is compromised, the eyes can feel constantly dry and irritated. The condition progressively worsens, and the most advanced cases can lead to inflammation and possibly scarring on the surface of the eye.
What Causes Dry Eye?
A normal, healthy eye constantly produces tears that bathe the cornea, or the clear covering of the eye. The tears are composed of a complex chemistry of water, mucous and oil. People with dry eye either do not produce enough tears to lubricate the eye, or the composition of the tears is off and they prematurely evaporate from the surface of the eye. Evaporative dry eye occurs when there is a problem with the meibomian glands, which produce the oily substance that prevents the evaporation of tears.
Common Dry Eye Causes:
- Contact lenses
- Age: As we mature, glands in the eyelids produce less oil. Oil keeps tears from evaporating off the eye. Decreased oil production allows tears to evaporate too quickly, leaving the eye dry. The lacrimal gland also produces less tears, particularly in women.
- Systemic diseases including Diabetes, Arthritis, Sjogren’s, and Collagen Vascular Diseases
- Hormonal changes, especially after menopause
- Prescription medications as well as over the counter medications: these include some high blood pressure medications, antihistamines, diuretics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives and pain medications.
The following can exacerbate Dry Eye:
- Hot, dry, or windy conditions: High altitude, heat and air conditioning
- Eye irritants such as cigarette smoke, chemical fumes
- Reading, computer work, or watching TV
- Some types of eye surgery can also exacerbate dry eye
How Do I Know If I Have Dry Eye?
Everyone’s eyes occasionally feel dry or irritated. However, if your eyes regularly feel like they are burning or stinging, you blink often or you often reach for artificial tears for relief, you could have dry eye. Another indication that you might have dry eye is that you have difficulty wearing contact lenses, reading or looking at a computer screen for extended periods of time. These symptoms of dry eye tend to get worse in the evenings. Some patients with dry eye have no symptoms, particularly contact lens wearers. Long-term contact lens wear can reduce corneal sensation.
Dry Eye Symptoms:
- Foreign body sensation: the feeling there is sand in your eye
- Blurring of vision after periods of reading, computer work, or watching TV
- Eyes that itch, burn, or ache
- Reflex tearing; excessive tearing
- Red, irritated eyes
- Mucus discharge
How Do I Know if I Need Dry Eye Treatment?
A comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Kornmehl will determine if you are in need of dry eye treatment in Boston. He will customize your treatment according to your specific condition.
Can Dry Eye Come And Go?
Dry eye is an ongoing condition. However, in the early stages of the disease, the symptoms may be noticeable only in certain conditions. For example, the eyes may feel dry and irritated at the end of a long day, in windy or dry climates or after wearing contact lenses. In some people, the symptoms are more apparent when they are dehydrated. Usually the symptoms become more consistent in nature.
Can Dry Eyes Affect Vision?
Yes, dry eye can have noticeable effects on vision. The most common visual effect is blurry vision, which may fluctuate throughout the day. Although most people with dry eye complain about the uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms of the disease, studies have shown that dry eye can reduce visual acuity. This is because the surface of the eye is meant to be covered in a smooth, even layer of tears in order to see clearly. When something disrupts the even layer of tears, vision can falter.
Can You Cure Dry Eye?
Although dry eye may not be completely curable, depending on its root cause and severity, the symptoms can be properly managed with the help of an eye expert. Sometimes this involves making simple lifestyle changes, such as not smoking or stopping or changing medications that cause dry eye. Prescription medications may be used to increase the moisture in the eye.
Dr. Kornmehl offers punctum plugs and various medicated eye drops for aqueous deficient dry eye and the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System for cases of evaporative dry eye. The therapy uses a combination of heat and gentle pressure to clear obstructed meibomian glands, curing an oil deficiency in the tears. As a result, the tears no longer evaporate prematurely.
How Do You Prevent Dry Eyes?
There are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of dry eye:
- Limit your time spent on computers and other electronic devices. While at work, practice the 20-20-20 rule of taking a break every 20 minutes to look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Avoid dry environments, especially in the winter, by using a humidifier.
- Take a fish oil supplement for the omega-3 and omega-6 benefits.
- Limit medications like antihistamines, which are designed to dry out the sinuses.
For more information about dry eye syndrome, please contact Kornmehl Laser Eye Associates today.