We asked Dr. Kingstone from Orillia EyeWear and iCare some questions about Dry Eye. Here is what he had to say:
Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the warmer spring and summer months?
A: Dry Eye symptoms tend to definitely be more severe during the fall and especially winter months. The outside air tends to be drier and indoor heating systems (in particular forced hot air and wood burning stoves/fireplaces) create a pretty dry indoor environment as well.
Q: When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of this problem yourself?
A: You should never really try to take care of dry eye symptoms on your own. If not properly diagnosed early and managed appropriately, dry eye can damage tissue and possibly scar the "windshield" of your eye (the cornea), and impair your vision.
Q: What is the examination like to determine whether someone is suffering from Dry Eyes?
A: To determine if you are suffering from dry eyes, I always start with a comprehensive eye exam, that includes a complete history of your overall health and eye health. This will help determine what is the CAUSE of your dry eye. I will then perform a few diagnostic tests to determine if you are producing enough tears, and also to determine the QUALITY of the tears you are producing- I'll use some special, yet simple, dyes and eyedrops to determine the surface condition of your eyes.
Q: I have a friend whose eyes are frequently overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?
A: One of the most common symptoms of eyes that are dry, are eyes that are frequently overly watery. What happens is this: If the eyes become suddenly dry, like when it is windy outside, our brain detects that and essentially tells the tear glands to "open their taps" to provide us with more tears. Unfortunately, this over-production of tears doesn't help us at all as they all tend to wash down our face instead of staying in our eyes.
Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
A: There are many medications and procedures available today to treat chronic dry eye. The most popular are over the counter (OTC) eye drops, called artificial tears. I prefer preservative free drops as it avoids a patient developing a reaction to preservatives over time, as these drops tend to be needed for a prolonged period of time. Ointments or eye gels are great to use before bed as our eyes tend to become quite dry while we sleep, and we can really use the extra moisture. I will sometimes prescribe medications like antibiotics (oral or topical) and anti-inflammatories to help stimulate oil production in the glands around the eyes, as well as to help ease the symptoms of inflammation. Natural treatments may help ease the inflammation of chronic dry eye by adding supplements and food into your diet that contain omega-3 fatty acids- these are found in fish-oil supplements, flaxseed, salmon and sardines. Lastly, simple lifestyle changes can go a long way to help: wearing sunglasses with side shields to prevent tears from evaporating too quickly; blink often when reading or using the computer/tablet/e-reader for a while; stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day: avoid smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
Q: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?
A: Anyone can get dry eye, but it is most common if you:
- are age 50 or older
- are female
- wear contact lenses
- do not get enough vitamin A (carrots, broccoli, liver), or omega-3 fatty acids (fish, walnuts, vegetable oils).
- have certain autoimmune conditions, like Lupus or Sjogren syndrome.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
A: You can try these to help avoid getting dry eyes:
- avoid places with a lot of air movement. Even in your car, move the vents so they are not blowing directly in your face.
- Use a humidifier in the wintertime.
- Rest your eyes- frequent breaks while reading/working to keep them blinking.
- stay away from cigarette smoke.
- use warm compresses in the morning, then wash eyelids to get sleep off of lids/lashes.
- try some fish oils for their omega-3 benefits- 2-4 grams a day.
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