Do your eyes constantly feel dry and itchy? Do you feel like you have to blink more than normal, and no matter how much your eyes tear up, they still feel uncomfortable? You could have a very common eye condition, known as Dry Eye Syndrome.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry Eye Syndrome is a consistent lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye, caused by the inability of the eye to produce enough tears or tears with the right qualities to keep eyes healthy and comfortable. While the eye normally lubricates itself with tears by producing them at a slow and steady rate, keeping itself moist and comfortable, with Dry Eye Syndrome, this is not the case.
Tears and Dry Eye Syndrome
Healthy tears will consist of three layers: an oily, a watery, and a mucus layer. Each of these layers has a specific role in lubricating your eyes. For instance, while the oily layer, which is outermost, slows evaporation of the tear, the watery layer in the middle, which makes up the majority of each tear, cleans the eye and helps to wash away small foreign objects and particles. The inner-most is a mucus that allows the watery layer to stick to the eye and spread evenly over the eye, to keep it lubricated. In a person with dry eyes, either hormonal changes, side effects from medication or some other factor causes the eye to either not produce enough tears, or leave out parts of the tear that make proper lubrication possible.
Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
Symptoms of dry eyes include stinging or burning in the eyes, scratchiness, and excessive irritation from smoke or wind. In an attempt to flush and lubricate itself, the eye will often produce an excess of tears, causing your eyes to water. Unfortunately, because these tears are not constructed properly, they evaporate too quickly, and relief is short-lived, if felt at all.
Treating Dry Eye Syndrome in Hopewell and Lambertville
Although dry eyes are not always curable, our Hopewell and Lambertville Eye Doctors may prescribe artificial tears to help with some of the symptoms. Artificial tears are lubricating eye drops that may help with dry, scratchy feeling eyes. Different artificial tears work in different ways. Some help replenish parts of the tear that your eyes are not producing on its own, others help to produce more tears overall. Your eye doctor will assist you to choose which will help you most.
Artificial tears are different than over-the-counter eye drops that are advertised to ‘get the red out.’ These eye drops may indeed reduce the appearance of redness in your eyes, but this is accomplished by making the blood vessels in your eyes smaller rather than actually lubricating your eyes. As such, these drops can sometimes actually make your symptoms worse. One should also be aware that if you wear contacts, some eye drops require you to take them out before using the drops and wait 15 minutes or more before reinserting your contact lenses.
Preventing Dry Eye Symptoms
Some cases of dry eyes are seasonal, such as those which occur as a result of cold, dry winter air. In this case, your eye doctor may recommend wearing sunglasses or goggles when outdoors to reduce your eyes’ exposure to the sun, wind and dust. For indoors, your optometrist may recommend an air cleaner and humidifier to take dust out of the air and add moisture to air which is too dry. Studies have also shown that nutrition may have a part in helping to relieve some symptoms of dry eyes.
Your eye doctor may recommend nutritional supplements such as omega-3. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fish, cod, herring and salmon, as well as flaxseed oil. Mild dehydration can make symptoms worse too, so be sure to drink plenty of water, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices and milk.