Submitted by VisionPoint Eye Center
Dry eye is a condition that causes an itchy, scratchy, or burning sensation in the eyes. It may also cause redness or irritation; pain when wearing contacts; excess tears; blurry vision; and a feeling of having something in the eye. Dry eye affects nearly five million Americans over the age of 50. If you’ve ever experienced any of these uncomfortable and even painful symptoms, you know how much of a hindrance they can be to enjoying every day activities. Understanding the causes and knowing how to prevent dry eye can help you reduce symptoms and keep your eyes healthy and comfortable.
What is dry eye?
The eye naturally produces three layers of tear film—oily, water, and mucus—which help the surface of your eyes stay smooth and clear. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), dry eye occurs when the eyes do not produce sufficient tears or do not make the right type of tear or tear film.
What causes dry eye?
The risk of developing dry eye increases with age. Women who have gone through hormonal changes like menopause are also more likely to get dry eye. According to the AAO, other causes include certain diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, lupus and blepharitis; exposure to a smoky or dry climate; viewing your computer screen or wearing contact lenses for long periods of time; and taking certain medications.
How is it treated?
Your ophthalmologist or optometrist can diagnose dry eye by looking at your eyelids, checking how you blink, and observing your tears. Your doctor may recommend artificial tears, which are eye drops that act like your natural tears and prevent dryness. You do not need a prescription for artificial tears and you may use them as needed. Blocking your tear ducts, which makes your natural tears stay in your eyes longer, is another option. In this procedure, tiny silicone or gel plugs are inserted into your tear ducts and can be removed if necessary. If necessary, there are several other treatment options. You and your doctor can determine which treatment is best for you.
How can I prevent dry eye?
Following are some ways that you can prevent dry eye from developing.
- Change your environment by avoiding cigarette smoke, staying inside when it’s windy, and adding a humidifier to any dry rooms in the house.
- Wear protective eyewear, especially when participating in activities like riding a bike or motorcycle.
- Add fatty acids to your diet to help reduce inflammation and allow for better tear production. Fatty acids can be found in ground flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, fatty fish like salmon, eggs, or it can be taken as a supplement.
- Rest your eyes by limiting the amount of time that they are intensely focused. Lengthy periods of reading and viewing digital screens can tire your eyes, causing dryness.
- Enlarge the font on your screen and keep devices at least 16 inches away from your face.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes of focusing your eyes, look away at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Following these tips can help prevent your eyes from getting irritated and fatigued. Always see your eye doctor if you experience difficulty seeing, itchy and scratchy eyes, or other indicators of eye conditions. Annual visits to your eye doctor are necessary to not only keep your prescription up to date, but to catch any problems in their earliest stages before they develop into something more serious.
Your vision is an important part of your overall health. If you would like more information or to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, contact VisionPoint Eye Center at 309-662-7700 or visit their website at www.visionpointeye.com. Their new office is located at 1107 Airport Road in Bloomington. Their ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians will be happy to see you.