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How Do You Know if You Have Dry Eye?

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Your eyes may feel itchy and sore,  and sometimes it’s difficult to determine the source of your discomfort. So, what’s the difference between eye irritation and dry eyes? 

Dry eye is precisely what the name suggests: It’s an eye condition that causes extreme dryness, resulting in various symptoms. Just like eye irritation, dry eye can cause redness and burning, but a lack of tears propels these sensations.

Your tear film has 3 layers, each with its own function to keep eyes moist and bacteria-free:

  • The outer oily lipid layer: Slows down evaporation and works to keep the eyes’ surface smooth
  • The watery middle aqueous layer: Hydrates the eye and channels nutrients to the correct position
  • The inner mucous layer: Makes your tears stick to the eyeball

If your tears don’t provide enough lubrication to keep your eyes comfortable, you could be suffering from dry eyes. When tears are imbalanced, they cannot provide the proper protection and hydration to our eyes, leading to excessive dryness. 

What Causes Tear Film Imbalance? 

Your tear production can be inadequate for a large number of reasons

There are a variety of health conditions that can affect your eyesight, like diabetes, blepharitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions may cause inflammation and blockages, preventing your eyes from producing the main components of the tear film

Other factors may contribute to dry eyes, including:

  • Age: Dry eyes are more common in those over 50 years old.
  • Allergies: Allergic reactions and allergy medications can affect tear film production. 
  • Vitamin A deficiency: Dry eyes are one of the first signs of a vitamin A deficit. 
  • Hormones: Hormonal changes, like ones experienced during pregnancy, on hormonal replacement therapy, or menopause, can cause dryness. 
  • Medications: Many medicines have ocular side effects, including cold medicines, birth control pills, beta-blockers, sleeping pills, and heartburn medications. 
  • Environment: Smoky, windy, or dry climates can cause your tears to evaporate more quickly.  
  • Contact Lenses: Long-term contact lens wear can exacerbate dry eye symptoms. 
  • LASIK eye surgery: Dry eyes are a common side effect of LASIK surgery
  • Close-up tasks: Spending more than 2 hours on a computer, reading for long periods, or driving long distances without pausing to rest can aggravate dry eye symptoms.
Close up of a man putting eye drops into his red, irritated eye from dry eye syndrome

Watch For These Symptoms 

Dry eye symptoms can occur infrequently, and may only last for short periods. It’s essential to consult your optometrist for treatment if discomfort from dry eyes becomes an everyday problem. Here are some of the symptoms of chronic dry eye: 

  • Blurry vision
  • Burning or stinging eyes
  • Stringy mucus around or inside the eye
  • Itchy eyes
  • Eye fatigue
  • Red eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Feeling like there’s something in the eyes 
  • Watery or teary eyes
  • Eye & eyelid redness
  • Puffy or swollen eyes
  • Discomfort wearing contact lenses 

Personalized Treatments 

There are many causes of dry eye, and this results in a variety of treatment solutions

Dry eye treatments can include

  • Changes to prescriptions: Speaking to your doctor about medications with ocular side effects, and making adjustments to prescriptions can help improve dry eyes. Small changes like different medications, or adjusting dosages can make a difference. 
  • Changes to Environment: It may seem simple, but some changes in the home can help, like: 
    • Using a humidifier.
    • Sitting away from an air conditioner.
    • Limiting outdoor time on windy or smoky days.
    • Taking frequent breaks from screens and computers
    • Upping your fluid intake
  • Medications: Speak to your optometrist about prescription medications that help reduce eye inflammation or stimulate tear production
  • Punctal plugging: These little plugs are made of silicone or gel-like material. They are placed into the tear ducts to prevent your tears from draining too quickly. They can be removed easily when necessary. 
  • Eye drops: Mild cases of dryness can be relieved by over-the-counter eye drops. Keep in mind that there are a large number of options available, and everyone’s eyesight is unique. Some eye drops can actually aggravate dry eye symptoms! It’s always best to speak with your optometrist for a recommendation. 
  • Eye Surface Inflammation and eyelid treatments: If dry eye is caused by blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction, prescription eye drops or ointments can reduce inflammation. Your eye doctor may use warm compresses to break up any blockages and help improve your symptoms. 

Relief is Waiting 

Dry eye goes hand-in-hand with uncomfortable symptoms, and you don’t need to suffer through them! This condition is becoming more common in America, and we are standing by with personalized treatment plans for our patients. 

We are dedicated to providing relief for dry eyes, no matter the cause or symptoms. Your solution depends on the cause of the condition, and a comprehensive eye exam can help determine the preferred treatment. 

If you have read through our list of symptoms and would like more information on dry eye, do not hesitate to contact the team at La Paz Optometric Center. Book yourself a dry eye therapy consultation, and get ready to say hello to refreshed vision. 

Written by Dr. Aaron Sako

Dr. Sako, who was born in Santa Monica and raised in Cerritos, first joined the La Paz Optometric family in 2001. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences in 1995 from the University of California Irvine, before earning his Doctor of Optometry, graduating with honors in 2000 from Nova Southeastern University in South Florida.

Dr. Sako’s current areas of focus are primary care, surgical consultations, surgical co-management, and specialty contact lenses. He is also glaucoma certified and is licensed in the use of therapeutic and diagnostic pharmaceutical agents. Dr. Sako has extensive clinical experience and training, and spent time at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, Florida and the Aker Kasten Cataract and Laser Eye Institute in Boca Raton, Florida, before joining the La Paz Optometric team.

Dr. Sako is an affiliate member of a prominent Orange County laser center, allowing his patients to benefit from his unique understanding of LASIK, which he, himself, has undergone. He has also co-managed thousands of refractive procedures. A proponent of lifelong learning, Dr. Sako is also certified in Corneal Refractive Therapy (CRT), which is a non-surgical option for correcting nearsightedness, which involves patients wearing specialty contact lenses during sleep.

Dr. Sako is a member of the American Optometric Association, the California Optometric Association, the Orange County Optometric Association, the Orange County Optometrist Club, and the Asian American Optometric Society. He is currently a member of the executive board for the Asian American Optometric Society and has been since 2004. He is also a member of the prestigious Advisory Board to Vision Laser Eye Centers in Newport Beach, California.

Dr. Sako believes in the importance of community service and always striving for excellence. This former Eagle Scout is currently an active member of the Mission Viejo Rotary Club and provides charitable annual eye exams and care through this organization to children in Baja, Mexico.

Dr. Sako lives in Ladera Ranch with his wife, Mako, and their three children Skylar, Payton, and Colby. When he is not helping patients, Dr. Sako enjoys exercising, skiing, playing golf, and spending time with friends and family. He also has a keen interest in music, and enjoys playing the Tahitian drums and strumming on his ukulele.

More Articles by Dr. Aaron Sako

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