The cold, dry air of winter can wreak havoc on our skin and eyes. For many, the season can bring symptoms of dry eye, a fairly common condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish your eyes or the quality of the tears themselves is diminished. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of our eyes and providing clear vision. Exposed to the bitter winter air, the moisture in our eyes can quickly evaporate leaving them dry and irritated. This often results in excessive tearing, a natural response of our eyes to try to re-lubricate themselves, leaving you wiping the tears as they stream out of your eyes on a cold day.
People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults. When dry eyes become chronically inflamed and irritated, it is common to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome. Fortunately, just as we can apply lotion to soothe our itchy, cracking skin in the bitter winter months, there are things we can do to soothe our irritated, dry eyes as well.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye sounds like a simple, self-explanatory problem, but it is actually quite complex. The symptoms and treatments of dry eye syndrome vary widely. A healthy tear layer provides several vital functions to our eyes, including lubrication (to soothe the friction caused by the eyelid when we blink), optimized optics, protection, and nourishment of the eye. For more information on tears and the role they play in dry eye, click here.
Indoors, the air of many homes is also extremely dry thanks to the use of wood stoves and wood burning fireplaces. To counteract this dryness, a humidifier can help bring the humidity level inside a room back to a more comfortable level. Ideally, the air inside your home should maintain a humidity level between 40-60%.
Proper nutrition can also help reduce the symptoms of dry eyes, including increasing your efforts to stay well hydrated throughout the cold winter months. Taking a vitamin supplement can also help ensure your eyes have the nutrients they need to properly function.
Common Symptoms of a Dry Eye Condition:
- – Burning
- – The sensation of having “something” in your eye (grittiness)
- – Excessive tearing
- – Stinging
- – Itching
- – Pain
- – Sensitivity to light
- – Blurry vision
- – Stringy discharge
Diagnosis and Treatment
To determine the underlying causes and severity of your dry eye condition, our dry eye doctor will first ask questions about your home and work environments, your overall health, and the specific symptoms you are experiencing. At the Primary Eyecare Dry Eye Clinic, the doctor can test both the quantity and the quality of your tears, the two most common factors in cause of dry eye symptoms. The doctor will then examine your eyelids for signs of skin disease, assess the quality and quantity of your tears and examine the front surface of your eye for dry areas.
Treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome includes a combination of options that will be customized for your specific dry eye symptoms. Possible treatment options include some or all of the following:
- – Prescription medications that increase tear production
- – Over the counter medications that lubricate the eye
- – Small plugs that that reside in the corner of the eyelid and slow the drainage of tears
- – Lifestyle change recommendations
- – Environmental change recommendations
- – Treatment recommendations for underlying, systemic disorders that may be contributing to or causing your dry eye
Request an appointment at the Dry Eye Clinic at Primary Eyecare for a evaluation of your dry eye and a treatment plan consisting of prescription and over the counter medicines and lifestyle changes that will help control your dry eye symptoms. Our dry eye doctor is available to help find the balance in treatment options to manage this chronic, but treatable, condition.
To learn more about our Dry Eye Clinic, click here.
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