Dry eye is the loss or reduction of the eye’s ability to produce normal tears. It is one of the most frequent causes of visits to an eye care professional. A variety of factors may cause or contribute to this problem; some are age-related, some are related to the environment. It is a common and treatable condition.
Dry eyes are very common, and dry eye syndrome is a major reason for visits to the eye doctor. A recent online poll revealed that nearly half (48 percent) of Americans age 18 and older regularly experience dry eye symptoms. Also, a survey result shows that more than 26 million Americans suffer from dry eyes, and this number is expected to increase to more than 29 million within 10 years. Other sources estimate that nearly five million Americans age 50 and older have clinically significant dry eye syndrome, and dry eyes affect nearly twice as many women as men.
Although your dry eye symptoms may come and go, if they’re more regular than not, you should come in to see doctor for treatments. People with dry eyes may experience irritated, gritty, scratchy or burning eyes; a feeling of something in their eyes; excess watering; and blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision. Treatments for dry eyes aim to restore or maintain the normal amount of tears in the eye to minimize dryness and related discomfort and to maintain eye health.
Regardless of the cause of dry eye, the signs and symptoms are similar. Eye redness, eye irritation and watery eyes are the common signs. Usually, there are a number of ways to help soothe the symptoms or treat the underlying cause, and the most common forms of treatment for dry eye include:Minimize drying: avoid dry situations, such as an overheated room, wind or smoke. Outdoors, wear wraparound glasses to reduce drying effect of the wind.
Artificial tears: comforts eyes by supplementing natural tears, commonly used for mild cases of dry eye.
Prescription eye drops: stimulates the production of natural tears, or inhibit ocular surface inflammation
Surgery: plugs may be inserted to block the drainage path of tears, or the tear ducts may be removed entirely. Both methods are intended to conserve the tears your eye does produce for a longer period of time.
Additionally, everybody can take the following steps to reduce symptoms of dry eyes:
1. Remember to blink regularly when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.
2. Increase the humidity in the air at work and at home.
3. Wear sunglasses outdoors, particularly those with wraparound frames, to reduce exposure to drying winds and the sun.
4. Nutritional supplements containing essential fatty acids may help decrease dry eye symptoms in some people. Ask your optometrist if taking dietary supplements could help your dry eye problems.
5. Avoiding becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water (8 to 10 glasses) each day.