Chances are you do – and it could be one of many reasons you have Dry Eyes.
By Dr. Shilpa Rose
July is “Dry Eye Awareness Month” which I consider one of the most important months of the year in terms of eye health. Dry Eye is a prevalent condition for many Americans, and even more so today with the prolonged daily use of digital devices.
Dry Eye is now a recognized medical diagnosis with an estimated 35-45 million sufferers, but it’s actually an underdiagnosed condition because everyone experiences it to some degree at some point. The biggest problem I consistently find with my patients is that they don’t realize they have it. However the good news is, once it’s diagnosed, there are ways to make it better.
The easiest way to explain Dry Eye is to start with some of the basic symptoms:
- Contact lens discomfort
- Changes in vision throughout the day
- Waking up in the middle of the night feeling like there’s something in the eyes.
- Plastic surgery of the eyelid — or blepharoplasty — which can change the muscle tone in your eyelids and cause dry eyes.
Here’s the most prevalent or cause of all: digital devices. The hours we spend everyday on cell phones, computers and laptops, and even video games can cause fluctuations in vision, fatigue, headaches – and the Dry Eyes we feel at the end of the day.
When it comes down to it, Dry Eyes are irritating and should be treated early to avoid long-term effects. Your tear film provides 25 percent of the refractive index of the eye – which just means the way light is focused in your eye. So if your eyes are dry – your vision will be blurry. I have had patients who think they have a brain tumor or that they are having a stroke because they have sudden blurry vision. These conditions are taken very seriously. But interestingly, once I put them on dry eye treatment, the symptoms go away and they are back to normal. Other times patients may think they have cataracts or that they need a new prescription for glasses, and only after spending hundreds – if not thousands of dollars on new glasses, all they needed was Dry Eye treatment.
Dry Eye has now been separated into two names scientifically. There is evaporative dry eye (EDE – more common) and aqueous deficient dry eye (ADDE). Regardless of whether you have one or a combination, the diagnosis helps with the treatment plan. So the key is Dry Eye awareness and optimizing the ocular (eye) surface of your eyes.
Basically here are the questions you should be asking if you think you may have Dry Eyes:
Are you making good tears? If you are making good tears are they evaporating too quickly? Is there a lack of tear production? Are you taking medication that can affect your tear production, i.e. antidepressants, anti cholesterol or blood pressure medication which can all cause dry eyes.
Today the most common questions I am asked by parents – are digital devices harmful to my eyes. The answer is – Yes. Prolonged periods on computer use can cause dry eyes and long term consequences.
IS THERE A CURE
Yes – there is a cure. We now have many ways to cure Dry Eyes and make people feel better. Preventative health measures and protecting your eyes long term is key. The cure begins with simple steps:
- Take a break from the computer every hour. When you take a break you blink, and that makes all the difference. When you stare at a computer, your blink rate goes down 40 percent and your eyes get fatigued and dry out.
- I’m a big fan of Omega 3s, or re-esterified fish oil supplements, which have been proven to improve the quality of your tear film and dry eyes. My recommendation is Omega 3s from a pure marine source.
- Drink more water.
- Plane travel. The humidity in a plane’s cabin decreases by 60 percent, so once again, it’s important to pre-hydrate.
- Push the air vent away from your eyes when driving. That’s drying out your eyes.
- Lid hygiene and preservative free artificial tears (No Visine)
- There are two prescription medications that also improve the quality of your tears: Restasis and Xiidra
- LipiFlow is a new technology that can clear out the tear ducts and cure dry eyes for many.
Ultimately awareness is the best cure. Dry Eye can be detected early, especially with an eye exam from an ophthalmologist. Imagine your quality of life without all of the of the irritations of Dry Eye, like red eyes, itching, burning, crusting, red lids, fatigue, headaches, and change of vision. Just making small changes in your lifestyle can make Dry Eye – and everyday living better.
(Dr. Shilpa Rose is a board certified ophthalmologist at Whitten Laser Eye in Washington, D.C. www.whittenlasereye.com. For interview requests, please contact email@example.com.)
Read more from Dr. Shilpa Rose:
Cataracts are common and curable (June 5, 2017)