According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 4.88 million individuals over the age of 50 have dry eye syndrome, which can be characterized by red, itchy, and scratchy eyes. Thankfully, this common eye ailment is completely treatable once the causes are known.
Causes of Dry Eye
Dry eye occurs when there is a problem with the basal tears, which are comprised of oil, water, and mucous. The oil layer helps prevent the tears from drying too quickly on the surface of the eye, the watery layer helps the tears hydrate, and the mucous layer helps to spread the tears evenly over the eye. If any of these layers are deficient, symptoms of dry eye can develop.
- Anatomical changes over time – As time goes on, the basal tear production in the eyes can reduce. This is why most people who have dry eye are over the age of 50.
- Medications – A common cause of dry eye is prescription and OTC medications. Usually, they will list dry eye as a side-effect.
- Autoimmune Disorders – Common conditions include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, rosacea, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Allergies – Seasonal allergies can lead to irritation and inflammation.
- Environmental Conditions – Individuals who work in dry, dusty, or windy conditions can develop symptoms of dry eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Dry eye can result in a wide range of symptoms that may not be readily noticeable. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to call our office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Orr or Dr. Yu to diagnose the causes of your dry eye and develop a dry eye treatment plan.
- Having fluctuating blurry vision, difficulty seeing at night, or a sensitivity to light
- Having a scratchy or gritty sensation when you blink
- Having red eyes or feeling like your eyes are burning or stinging
- Growing intolerance to wearing contact lenses
Dry Eye Treatment
Dry eye treatment starts with a thorough diagnosis that includes an eye exam to test your eye health and visual acuity. Dr. Orr or Dr. Yu will assess the quality of your tears and health of the surface of your eyes. If there is a problem with your tear production or the composition of your basal tears, a dry eye treatment plan will be developed.
Eye Drops and Ointments
For mild to moderate dry eye, our optometrists may recommend eye drops or ointments. Eye drops are typically used during the day to keep your eyes hydrated and to reduce symptoms. Ointments are placed in the eyes at night to help keep your eyes hydrated while you sleep.
If you have one or more prescription or OTC medications that list dry eye as a side effect, our optometrists may recommend talking to your family doctor about switching to medications that do not cause symptoms of dry eye.
Medications that Increase Tear Production
There are medications on the market that can increase your natural tear production. They can be prescribed as oral tablets or pills, or eye drops.
Temporarily or Permanently Closing Your Tear Ducts
If drops, ointments, and switching medications doesn’t help alleviate your dry eye symptoms, our optometrists may recommend inserting plugs into your tear ducts to close them, thereby preventing your tears from draining so quickly. The first step usually involves inserting temporary tear duct plugs to see if this helps alleviate your symptoms. If it does, we may recommend permanent tear duct plugs.