Symptoms of dry eye: More than Meets the Eye
If you suffer from dry eye, finding the culprit may be as simple as opening up your medicine cabinet.
Some over-the-counter and prescription medications may be robbing your eyes from receiving the adequate hydration they need.
Dry eye symptoms can result from aging, hormonal changes, or from taking medications such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants and antihistamines.
While popular brands of antihistamines such as Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec and Benadryl can relieve allergy symptoms, they all have drying effects on your eyes. These medications prohibit your eyes from producing healthy tears, which can lead to dry, irritated eyes.
Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems are also more likely to produce symptoms of dry eye. Autoimmune diseases can trigger your body to attack its own healthy tissues, such as your eyes.
Even if you have a clean bill of health, there are certain lifestyle habits that can also contribute to dry eye. You will learn more about how to minimize these habits later on in this post.
No More Tears
Healthy eyes produce tears that are necessary for good eye health and clear vision. Symptoms of dry eye – stinging, scratchy, heavy eyes, fluctuating vision, or a feeling of something foreign within the eye – occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or when your tears don’t have the proper chemical composition.
One of the main causes of dry eye disease is evaporative dry eye (EDE). This occurs when the Meibomian glands (a type of gland in the eyelids) do not produce a strong outer layer of tears; resulting in tears that evaporate too quickly. This is what leads to dryness.
The Summer of Sneeze
With pollen, mold, and insect sting season right around the corner, reaching for antihistamines (a common contributor to dry eye) for summer allergy relief is inevitable. So, what other options do you have? There are plenty!
- Ask your family physician to lower the dose of your medication, if possible. Sometimes lower dosages are less likely to cause dry eye.
- Talk to our team at our vision care centre in Oakville. They will work with you to determine which lifestyle factors are causing your dry eye symptoms. The following are common contributors:
- Exposure to irritants like smoke or chemicals commonly used in swimming pools (always wear goggles to minimize exposure to chemicals!)
- Blowing air from vents, ceiling fans and hair dryers
- Exposure to wind, sun, glare, and dust
- Infrequent blinking (take frequent breaks when you are using your smartphone, tablet, playing video games or watching Netflix. The Ontario Association of Optometrists says, on average, we blink 12 times per minute. When we are in front of a screen, we only blink 5 times per minute. This can lead to dry eye).
Your optometrist will perform an eye exam using a slit lamp to examine ocular tissue at the front of the eye, including the eyelids, cornea, iris and lens. With the use of a slit lamp, your optometrist will be able to detect surface dryness and determine which layer of the tear film (the film of tears that spreads over the eye to make the surface of the eye smooth and clear) is inadequate and will determine the appropriate treatment.
Dry eye pain and discomfort intensifies when mixed with allergy symptoms. Just ask someone who suffers from both! This happens because ocular allergies weaken the tear film and cause dry eye symptoms. At the same time, allergy symptoms are provoked by dry eye because your eyes are more vulnerable to allergens when the tear film is weakened.
There is Relief in Sight
Although there is no cure for dry eye, using the right artificial tears or prescription eye drops will improve your comfort and maintain proper eye health. There are many products that we recommend and sell at our vision care centre that can help combat both dry eye and ocular allergies. There are also specific brands of lubricating eye drops that we would recommend that are free from preservatives, safe for adults and children (over the age of six), and can be used even if you wear soft or hard contact lenses. Talk to our team at our vision care centre for more information.
You may also want to try incorporating more Omega-3s (fish and other foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids) into your diet as these foods typically support eye health. A member of our team at our eye clinic in Oakville can offer you more guidance on nutrition and supplements.
Importance of Treatment
Dry eye can be harmful if left untreated. It can cause tissue damage and scaring, which can lead to impaired vision, and even make wearing contact lenses very uncomfortable due to increased irritation.
If you are concerned about dry eye or itchy eyes from allergies or have more questions, talk to one of our optometrists or a member of our team at our eye clinic in Oakville. Our knowledgeable staff will recommend a dry eye treatment regimen to help minimize any discomfort and assess your specific eye (ocular) needs.