Thursday, April 11, 2013

Shedding Light on Dry Eye

April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, so now is a good time to reflect on an issue that is common in women – dry eye. According to the National Eye Institute, dry eye can be caused by improper tear production, tears that aren’t the correct consistency or tears that evaporate too quickly. Permanent vision loss due to dry eye is rare, but inflammation associated with it can lead to discomfort, ulcers, scarring of the cornea and some vision loss. Women make up more than 60 percent of the five million individuals over the age of 50 who experience dry eye, which is more common after menopause. Additionally, women who are pregnant or on hormone replacement therapy are more likely to be affected by the condition.

Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Stinging or burning of the eye
  • A sandy or gritty feeling in the eye
  • Dry eye periods followed by excess tear production
  • A stringy discharge from the eye
  • Eye pain/redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Being unable to cry
  • Discomfort while wearing contact lenses
  • Eye irritation during activities that require long periods of focus (reading, looking at a computer screen, etc.)
  • Tired eyes

Individuals experiencing symptoms should schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Treatment of dry eye will depend on its root cause and ranges from treating an underlying disease to taking anti-inflammatory medications. Closing the holes where tears drain from the eyes to the nose or using artificial tears, gels and ointments may be necessary. In some cases, wearing contact lenses may worsen dry eye symptoms, so switching lens types, decreasing the amount of time they are worn or wearing glasses instead can offer relief.

The good news is that with treatment, permanent damage due to dry eye can be prevented.

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