Have you ever felt a burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes, like there was a grain of sand stuck in them, or suddenly teared up after staring at your computer screen for too long? If so, you may have experienced dry eye, an extremely common condition that many people deal with at least occasionally and others suffer from on a regular basis. If you’re wondering how to prevent dry eye, it’s important to know what causes it, and how to diagnose and treat it properly.
Normal vs. Dry Eye
Your eyes need a constant film of tears on their surface in order to keep them clear, lubricated, and protected. Every time you blink, a tear film produced by your tear glands is wiped across each eyeball. This tear film is actually a three-part mixture of oil, water, and mucus. Not only does it keep your eyes hydrated, it also helps ward off infection. When people suffer from dry eye, it’s because they are not producing enough of this tear film, or because there is an imbalance in the composition of their tear mixture.
What Causes Dry Eye?
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are numerous causes and risk factors that can lead to dry eye, including age, gender, hormonal changes, eye damage, certain medications, refractive surgeries like LASIK, medical conditions like diabetes, environmental conditions, contact lens use, and low-blink-rate activities such as computer work or reading.
How to Prevent Dry Eye
If you only experience dry eye occasionally, it may be due to tear loss caused by environmental factors that you can exert some control over. In these instances, try some of the Mayo Clinic’s dry eye prevention tips:
- Avoid air blowing directly into your eyes, such as from a hair dryer or the air vents on your car dashboard.
- Add moisture to the air by using a humidifier at home or in the office.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses, especially during fast-moving outdoor activities like cycling or skiing.
- Take eye breaks and blink often, especially when working in front of a computer or staring at a book, cell phone, or other device for long periods.
- Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke whenever possible.
Dry Eye Diagnosis and Treatment
If your dry eye symptoms are recurring, it’s important to see an optometrist for an official diagnosis and treatment. Woodhams has recently opened a Dry Eye Clinic where you can now undergo a quick, simple, and highly effective evaluation with the TearLab osmolarity test. This test measures the salt content of your tears, which has been shown to have the best predictive value of any test for dry eye disease. Your doctor will determine your osmolarity number, which indicates the severity of your dry eye condition. She will then be able to advise you on the best course of treatment for your particular situation, including identifying any underlying health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, other forms of treatment include anti-inflammatory medications like antibiotics, prescription eye drops, and the use of punctal plugs, which cover your tear ducts in order to reduce tear loss from draining.
Ultimately, dry eye disease is a common but highly treatable condition, so there’s no need to suffer from it unassisted. Use the prevention tips listed, but don’t hesitate to see your optometrist for a full assessment and customized treatment if your symptoms continue.
For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.
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