Eye Conditions: DRY EYE

What is dry eye?

Dry eye is caused by a lack of sufficient moisture, or tears, on the surface of the eye.

What causes dry eye?

Causes of dry eye include:

  • Insufficient tear production
  • Natural aging
  • As a side effect of certain medications, such as antidepressants or antihistamines
  • Living in a dry environment
  • Long-term use of contact lenses  

The environment here in Oklahoma (wind, dust, temperature extremes, allergens) all contribute to dry eye, which is why this is the most common complaint we see in our office. Certain “focused” visual activities, such as prolonged driving, computer work, or reading, decrease our blink rate significantly, which impacts the dryness of the eye.  The impact of dry eye (eye discomfort and blurred vision) is often underestimated.

What are the symptoms of dry eye?

Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Sensation of something in the eye

What are the treatments for dry eye?

There are many contributing factors in the development of dry eye symptoms. There is not currently any one treatment that can cure the condition. However, there are a number of prescription treatments and lifestyle changes you can make to manage or even eliminate the symptoms of dry eye.

  • Artificial tears
  • Prescription eye drops called Restasis that reduce inflammation
  • Lubricating eye inserts called Lacrisert
  • Punctal plugs that keep moisture in the eye
  • Sunglasses
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acid supplements
  • Increasing fluid intake
  • Use one of the many lubricating eye drop products available over-the-counter

Many brands of eye drops are available on the store shelf.  Here’s how to select an appropriate product to lubricate dry eyes:

  • Avoid drops that claim to “get the red out,” as these are not good options for treating dryness.  The vasoconstricting ingredients in these products do reduce the redness of the eyes for short periods of time.  However, if used regularly, they create “rebound redness” that only makes the problem worse.
  • Look for eye drop labels that say they lubricate and moisturize the eye and do not have other features.
  • Thicker products (gels and liquigels) are good to use at bedtime to moisturize the eyes during sleep.
  • If you are sensitive to preservatives, excellent preservative-free drops are available.  These products are also preferred if you need to use lubricating drops more often than every 4 hours.

 

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