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Author: lakecountryoptometry

Dry Eye Syndrome Causes and Cures

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Why Are My Eyes So Dry?

Do you experience dry, scratchy, burning eyes, redness or pain, a gritty feeling like something is in your eye? Or perhaps, excessive tearing, blurred vision, eye fatigue or discomfort wearing contact lenses? There could be a number of causes for your symptoms including allergies, reactions to an irritant or medication or an infection. You could also have a chronic condition called Dry Eye Syndrome.

It’s estimated that one out of every eight adults suffers to some extent from dry eye syndrome, which can range from mild to severe. Despite the fact that it is one of the most common eye problems, a surprisingly large percentage of patients are not aware of it.

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Your eyes need a layer of tears to lubricate the surface and keep the eyes comfortable, clean and clear. These tears also wash away particles, dust and bacteria that can lead to infection and eye damage. Dry eye syndrome occurs when there is a chronic lack of lubrication on the surface of the eye either because not enough tears are being produced, the quality of the tears is weak or they evaporate too quickly. This causes the common uncomfortable symptoms including:

  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Soreness or pain
  • Dryness (and sometimes even excessive tearing because the eyes are trying to compensate)
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Grittiness or a feeling like there is something in your eye
  • Vision seems to change when blinking

Factors that Contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome

There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome. While some of them are inherent, there are some environmental factors that can be changed to reduce your risk or symptoms. Risk factors include:

  • Aging: While it can occur at any age, dry eye is more common in individuals over age 50.
  • Women: Likely related to hormonal fluctuations, women are more likely to develop dry eyes than men, especially during pregnancy, menopause or when using birth control pills.
  • Digital screen use: Whether it is a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, when our eyes are focused on a digital screen we tend to blink less, increasing tear evaporation and increasing dryness, blurriness and discomfort. Remember to regularly take a break, look away from the screen and blink several times.
  • Medications: A number of medications – both prescription and nonprescription – have been found to cause dry eye symptoms including certain blood pressure regulators, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, tranquilizers and antidepressants.
  • Contact lenses: Dry eyes is a common problem in contact lens wear. Several manufacturers have started offering lenses that hold more moisture to combat this common issue.
  • Dry air: Whether it is the air conditioning or forced-air heating inside or the dry, windy climate outside, the environment of the air around you can contribute to dry eyes by causing your tears to evaporate too quickly.
  • LASIK: One side effect of LASIK and other corneal refractive surgery is dry eyes, which usually lasts about 3-6 months and eventually resolves itself.
  • Eyelid conditions: Certain conditions which prevent the eyelid from closing completely when sleeping or even blinking can cause the eye to try out.
  • Allergies or infections: Chronic inflammation of the conjunctiva which is often caused by allergies or infections such as Blepharitis can result in dry eyes.
  • Systemic diseases: People with autoimmune diseases or systemic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are also more prone to Dry Eye.

How do you treat dry eye symptoms?

If you have dry eyes, you don’t need to suffer. There are a number of treatment options that can help, depending on the severity and cause of your condition, which can reduce symptoms and enhance your comfort.

Treatments for dry eyes can include non-prescription or prescription eye drops, omega 3 supplements, special lid therapies, punctal plugs, ointments, different contact lenses, goggles or ergonomic changes to your work station. Speak to your eye doctor to discuss the cause of your dry eye and the best remedy for you. Even when it comes to the seemingly straightforward treatments like over-the-counter eye drops, they aren’t all the same. Different ingredients are tailored towards different causes of dry eye.

Get Help for Dry Eyes Today!

If you are experiencing the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to find out the best solution for you.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

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Diabetes is a growing health crisis in North America as an estimated 29 million Americans and 3.4 million Canadians are currently living with the disease. Chances are it affects you or someone you know. November has been dedicated as a time to spread awareness about the disease, its risk factors and the effects it has on your body, your daily life and the lives of your loved ones.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

Diabetes is a systemic disease that causes fluctuations in glucose (blood sugar) levels which can affect blood vessels throughout the body including those in your eyes and visual system. People with diabetes are at higher risk for blindness than the general population, however with regular eye exams and proper care, most of the complications are minor and treatable.

Minor changes in glucose levels could result in complications such as blurred or double vision, floaters or even visual field loss. These conditions are usually quite treatable. Diabetics are also at greater risk for developing eye diseases such as glaucoma (40% increase risk) and cataracts (60% increased risk). With early detection, both of these conditions can be treated and the majority of vision restored.

Diabetic eye disease often has NO noticeable symptoms or pain, so comprehensive eye exams that include dilating the pupils are essential to detect signs of diabetes. Online vision assessments will not detect diabetic eye disease.

The condition that is the most concerning risk of diabetes is called diabetic retinopathy which can lead to blindness if not diagnosed and treated.

What You Need to Know About Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels or capillaries in the back of the eye develop weakened vessel walls. If not treated, the vessels leak fluid and become blocked. This can progress to hemorrhages in the retina, and over time the eye does not receive enough oxygen and nutrients. As a result, new fine blood vessels start to grow. These proliferating vessels leak and can cause further bleeding, scarring and potentially lead to blindness. A special zone in the central retina called the macula is especially susceptible to diabetes. Diabetic macular edema (when fluid seeps into the macula) can cause permanent vision loss if not promptly detected.

There are treatments for stopping the progression of the disease such as laser therapy or intraocular injections, although once damage to vision has occurred, it is often permanent. This is why the condition must be diagnosed and treated early on.

All diabetics should have a regular comprehensive eye exam to catch any early signs of diabetic retinopathy or other vision threatening conditions. Because risk factors vary, speak to your eye doctor about how often you should have an exam. Risk factors for diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Length of time living with diabetes
  • Uncontrolled blood sugar levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics

Although blindness from diabetes is preventable it is still a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. If you or someone you know has the disease, make sure that proper eye care is a priority.

Poolside Eye Safety

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Whether it is the sea, the sand, the sun or the softball field, summer brings people outside and this creates exposure to a multitude of potential dangers to the eyes.

One risk that is possibly the least obvious is the swimming pool. Swimming pools are the culprit for multitudes of eye infections, irritations and sunburns each year.

Here are 3 tips for keeping your eyes safe in and around the swimming pool.

  1. Cover Your Eyes Poolside

    Sunlight reflects off water, sand and even cement, increasing exposure. Any time you are in the vicinity of a water source keep your eyes covered with 100% UV blocking sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat. Start this habit early. UV radiation builds up over your lifetime and has been linked to eye diseases such as cataracts and macular-degeneration in adults. Additionally, even short amounts of exposure to intense sunlight can lead to a sunburn of the eye or photokeratitis (see below for treatment), which can be painful and affect vision temporarily.

  2. Remove or Protect Contact Lenses

    Contact lenses can trap bacteria and microscopic organisms found in water inside your eye resulting in eye infections and irritation. Further, if contacts are worn underwater, they might fall off if you open your eyes. Lastly, there is risk that chlorine or other contaminants will bind onto the contact lens, and certain chemicals cannot be cleaned off or disinfected properly. The best solution is to wear non-prescription swimming goggles over your lenses to keep water and harmful organisms out of your eyes. Prescription goggles are also available for those who prefer to remove their contacts. If you must swim with contact lenses, remove them immediately after you leave the pool and discard or disinfect them thoroughly. It’s preferable to use 1-day disposable contact lenses during water activities, to reduce risk of water contaminating the contacts. Daily disposable lenses allow you to discard the lenses immediately after leaving the water and to start with a fresh lens.

  3. Wear Goggles

    Swimming goggles are a good idea even for those who have no vision problems. They protect your eyes from the organisms in the water and from chemical irritants such as chlorine and yes, even urine, which are often found in pools. Your eyes will feel much better after swimming if they haven’t been exposed to the water.

How to Treat Sunburned Eyes:

The cornea at the front of the eye can develop a sunburn from extensive exposure to UV radiation. You can tell you have sunburned eyes when the white of the eye becomes bloodshot and your eyes are sensitive to light and have a gritty feeling (like there is sand in your eye). They may also become sore and sometimes you may experience blurred vision.

If you are experiencing discomfort it may help to soothe your eyes with lubricating eye drops, to rest and to stay out of sunlight as much as possible. Sometimes anti-inflammatory eye drops may be required. Usually the symptoms will resolve themselves within a couple of days. If your symptoms persist longer than two days or worsen, visit your eye doctor immediately.

Avoid eye sunburns and the cumulative effects of the sun on your precious eyes by always wearing 100% UV blocking sunglasses – rain or shine!