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As eye care professionals we help patients with many varying conditions, dry eye syndrome being one of the more frequent issues that presents itself, especially during the winter months (for some top winter tips check out our previous blog), but how much do you know about the syndrome?
Who suffers with Dry Eyes
Dry eye syndrome can affect anyone although the condition often affects the older population more, as when you get older you tend to make fewer tears which is usually the primary cause of dry eyes. In particular, some women may often notice dry eyes developing after they go through the menopause. Patients who wear contact lenses also have an increased chance of developing dry eye syndrome, with 35% of wearers reporting symptoms. Those who work on computers for the majority of the day are also at risk of developing dry eyes, although women often suffer from symptoms more often then men as a result of this.
Symptoms can include an irritation in the eyes, making them feel gritty or producing a burning sensation however they do not go red and if they do another eye problem may be present.
Vision can become blurred, however it should be noted that dry eyes do not affect the seeing part of the eye and will not usually cause permanent damage to vision.
Discomfort in your eyes, especially when looking at bright lights.
Those patients that wear contact lenses may also notice that they become uncomfortable to wear.
In scientific terms, dry eye syndrome is a multifactorial condition that involves not only a lack of aqueous tear production and lipid layers of the tears, but also inflammation of the ocular surface and lacrimal gland. In simpler terms, dry eye syndrome can occur if any part of the tear production process becomes disrupted and means that the quantity or quality of your tears is affected, as this means that the eyes are not being lubricated as they should be. The surface of your eye is always covered by a thin layer of liquid known as the tear film that helps to lubricate your eyes, keep them clean and free of dust, and protect them against infection.
Other causes can be lifestyle factors such as frequent computer use, chronic health conditions (ie. diabetes) as well as environmental causes such as exposure to dust and heat and colder weather conditions. Certain medications can also cause dry eye symptoms as a side effect, or may make dry eyes worse if a patient is already suffering with symptoms. Medications may include some antidepressants, antihistamines, beta-blockers, etc. Some patients can also develop dry eyes as an additional symptom to other illnesses, such as a common cold or flu.
The most common treatment for dry eyes is lubricating eye drops or gels (artificial tears), which are effective but need to be used throughout the day and do not address any underlying causes of the syndrome, meaning that you may need to use them regularly in order to keep symptoms away. The most effective way to treat dry eye syndrome is to adopt an approach that tackles the tear production and the underlying inflammation caused by the condition. Patients can sometimes find that the use of a soothing and lubricating eye ointment (only to be used at night to ensure that the eye drops are able to work throughout the day) can enhance the effectiveness of the eye drops and help to relieve pain or irritation at night.
Some patients that have an underlying cause for their dry eyes may need other treatments to combat the cause effectively and those with severe cases of dry eyes may need additional or other types of treatments, these can include:
There are natural remedies and treatments that can also be quite effective in not only aiding the symptoms of dry eyes but also preventing future cases. Patients that incorporated fats from fish oils, such as omega 3 and omega 6, into their diets or as supplements found that they alleviated the inflammation often caused by dry eyes, so including sources of these fats into your diet once or twice a week could prove to be beneficial. Not only do they improve dry eyes but they have an overall health-improving effect with a reduction of heart disease and arthritis, which makes almost makes them a type of super food.