Dry eyes are uncomfortable and can lead to long-term vision problems. If you’re experiencing red eyes, blurry vision, burning or irritated eyes, or another symptom of dry eye disease, book an eye exam to discuss things with your optometrist. They’ll be able to diagnose the root causes and recommend appropriate treatment.
Let’s talk a little bit more about what that looks like.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?
Symptoms of dry eye usually affect both eyes. They can include:
- Red eyes
- Watery eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Burning or scratching sensations
- Itchy eyes
- Feeling like something is stuck in your eye
- Blurry vision
What Causes Dry Eye?
In order to understand whether dry eye is curable or not, we first have to understand what causes dry eye. The two main causes — poor tear quality and inadequate tear volume — can develop from a variety of factors.
Age, gender, exposure to certain environmental conditions, and certain surgeries and medications can all contribute to the development of dry eye disease.
Poor Tear Quality
Oil, water, and mucus are the 3 components that make up our tears. Each of these components has an important role to play in protecting and nourishing the eye. Oil helps prevent the water from evaporating too quickly and mucus ensures that the tears are evenly spread over the eye. If one of these layers is out of balance, dry eye can occur.
Inadequate Tear Volume
Several glands in and around the eyelid are responsible for tear production. Age, as well as various environmental factors like windy or dry weather conditions can lead to a decrease in tear production or an increase in their evaporation. Certain medications or previous surgical procedures can also reduce tear volume, leading to dry eyes.
Your optometrist will evaluate your unique set of circumstances and determine the cause of your symptoms. They’ll provide you with a tailored treatment plan.
The Difference Between a Cure & a Treatment
Cures and treatments are often used interchangeably, but it’s important to know the difference. A cure implies that after a medical intervention, the problem has been completely eliminated. Treatments manage the issue. For dry eyes, treatments alleviate discomfort and provide lasting relief.
While dry eye isn’t technically curable, the treatments available offer long-term comfort.
When eye drops aren’t enough to offer relief for dry eyes, punctal plugs might be an option. No larger than a grain of rice, these tiny devices are inserted into tear ducts to block drainage, allowing your eyes to retain more tears.
The tears stay on the surface of the eye longer, keeping it moist and helping to relieve dry eye symptoms. They’re nearly invisible to the naked eye and can be inserted in a matter of seconds.
Dry eyes often originate from meibomian gland dysfunction. LipiFlow is a short, in-office procedure that removes blockages from the meibomian gland using heat and gentle massage.
During this relatively non-invasive treatment, specially-designed activators are placed over your eyes. They’re heated up to liquefy blockages and then gentle pressure flushes away dead cells. The treatment takes about 12 minutes per eye.
Lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, moisturize and soothe the surface of the eye. All eye drops aren’t the same. Artificial tears are different from products like contact lens rewetting solutions.
Artificial tears are specifically made to treat dry eyes. Brands like Oasis Tears help lubricate as well as prevent irritants from entering the eye.
A study conducted by the NIH’s National Eye Institute found that nutrition can help promote overall eye health. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in a variety of fish, nuts, seeds, and leafy green vegetables, can help to soothe the inflammation associated with dry eyes. It might also help your meibomian glands make the oily part of your tears, preventing them from evaporating too quickly.
Antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, found in veggies like kale and broccoli, help keep the eyes healthy. Vitamins C and E provide a boost to overall health while protecting cells and blood vessels in the eyes.
Supplements like EyePromise, available from your optometrist, can help ensure you’re getting the nutrients needed to support ocular health.
Relief is Available
If left untreated, dry eye disease can cause long-term damage. Dry eyes leave you more susceptible to infection. They can cause corneal abrasions, ulcers, and ultimately, vision loss. Performing daily tasks with dry eyes might also be more difficult. Ask your optometrist about treatment options during your next appointment.
As you can see, there are several factors that might cause dry eye disease and there are a range of options for relief. La Paz Optometric Center can help determine the causes of your dry eyes and recommend a tailored treatment plan, specific to your individual needs.
While dry eye disease isn’t curable, it is certainly treatable.