Dry eyes can be caused by a number of factors, including age, disease, environmental conditions, medications, radiation treatment, and vitamin A deficiencies, to name a few. Dry Eye Syndrome can make it feel like your eyes are burning, stinging, or have sand in them, and it can make you sensitive to light and wind. It can also impair your eyesight, causing some people to experience blurred or double vision. Dry Eye Syndrome symptoms can range from mildly irritating to extremely painful. Sufferers of Dry Eye Syndrome are often searching for ways to reduce dryness and find relief, which is especially true as we approach the cold, windy, and dry conditions of winter in Alberta. This winter, try these tips to keep your eyes feeling lubricated and comfortable.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition that occurs when the eyes are unable to produce tears of the proper quantity or chemical composition. There are two main types of Dry Eye Syndrome: Aqueous Tear-Deficient and Evaporative. Aqueous Tear-Deficient causes the lacrimal glands to be unable to produce enough of the watery component in the tears to help maintain a healthy ocular surface. Evaporative is caused by inflammation of the meibomian glands located in the eyelid. These glands are responsible for producing the oily layer of the tears. Without this layer, tears can be unstable and evaporate too quickly.
What Can I Do About Dry Eye Syndrome?
- Use a humidifier. Humidifiers put moisture into the air, which helps slow down the evaporation of tears.
- Use lubricating eye drops and artificial tears. These products can help replace the natural fluids your eyes are lacking. These are different from red eye drops or medicated eye drops, although your optometrist may recommend prescription drops depending on the severity of your condition.
- Allow your eyes to rest. Staring at screens or reading all day may be drying out your eyes as well as putting a strain on them. Try taking frequent breaks during these activities.
- Use warm compresses and eyelid scrubs. If you have inflamed eyelids or if your glands don’t produce lubricant, lightly scrubbing your eyelids with warm water and a gentle cleanser can help stimulate your glands through the heat and massaging action. The massaging along with the cleansing products can help your eyelids produce oils naturally and fight any bacteria that break down these oils. Remember to use gentle products that are less likely to irritate the eyes, such as baby shampoo or pH balanced soaps.
- Use eye ointments. Since they’re thicker than eye drops, eye ointments can blur your vision and are typically better for nighttime use, but they last much longer than eye drops.
- Avoid fast moving air. Fans and air conditioners will dry out your eyes so try to turn them down or avoid their use if possible.
Whether DES is only irritating or whether it causes pain, you do not need to suffer the symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome. As Alberta-based eye doctors, the team at My Optometrist have faced the harsh winters and understand the challenges of treating Dry Eye Syndrome during this season. They know that the cold, dry winters of our province can intensify the symptoms of DES. Visit the My Optometrist team at one of our locations in Calgary, Sunridge in the NW, Sundance in the SE, or at our Three Hills, AB location for professional diagnosis and treatment of your dry eye symptoms.
Q: What should I do if I think I have DES?
A: Book an appointment with the team at My Optometrist either in Calgary, Sunridge, NE, Sundance, SE, or Three Hills, AB. Their knowledgeable team will help you figure out your diagnosis and what steps to take next.
Q: Is there a cure for DES?
A: There is not, but there are ways to mitigate the symptoms. Other than the list above, there are options offered by the eye doctors at My Optometrist Calgary, such as medicated eye drops, punctal plugs, and more. Talk to our optometrists for more information.
Q: Can dry eyes lead to glaucoma?
A: No. Glaucoma is one of the conditions that can cause dry eyes and your chances of getting both will increase as you age. Sometimes the eye drops used for glaucoma can have dry eyes as a side effect after prolonged use. Even though the two of them can occur together, DES itself does not cause glaucoma. If you think you might have glaucoma, you should schedule an eye exam with a My Optometrist eye doctor so you can catch it early.