Q & A with Dr. McNulty on Dry Eye Disease
Do your eyes sometimes feel gritty, tired, watery, or just plain uncomfortable? If so, you may suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome. Read on to learn why our eyes get dry, and what you can do about it!
Why do my eyes feel so tired?
We think of tears as what comes out of our eyes when we cry. In fact, tears are a vital component of healthy eyes all of the time. A quality layer of tears protects the eyes from the elements and keeps them hydrated. When the tears evaporate or are disrupted, comfort and vision both suffer.
What causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
There are different kinds of Dry Eye Syndrome. One type, called Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye, arises when there aren’t enough tears produced by the tear glands. In another kind, called Evaporative Dry Eye, there are plenty of tears produced but they are poor quality. They evaporate quickly, and are often replaced by more poor-quality tears. This cycle may lead to excess tearing and paradoxical watering of the eyes. Many people are surprised to hear that the root cause of their watery eyes is in fact Dry Eye Syndrome!
What can be done for Dry Eye Syndrome?
Treatment is approached in a stepwise fashion, starting with the least invasive option. The easiest place to start is with OTC (over the counter) artificial tears to supplement your natural tears. Be sure to follow the instructions on the bottle. If these are inadequate, more aggressive approaches can be considered. These may involve prescription drops or something called punctal plugs. These are microscopic “stoppers” that plug up the tear drain in your eyelid. This slows drainage of your tears and maximizes the effectiveness of your natural tears.
Are there any environmental changes that can ease Dry Eye Syndrome?
Absolutely. Certain environments can create challenges for the ocular surface. For example, many people spend hours per day staring at a computer screen. When we are concentrating on a visual task, we subconsciously decrease our blink rate. Instead of blinking every 8 seconds, you may blink every 12 seconds at the computer. This allows your tears to evaporate more between blinks, causing dryness. Further, many offices have recycled air that tends to be quite dry. Especially if this air is heated, it can cause tear evaporation and dryness.
Fans or heaters directed at the eyes can cause significant tear evaporation and Dry Eye. This is often the case in the car; therefore I recommend that heaters are set to the feet vents only. At work, try to avoid sitting directly under a vent that blows directly at your eyes. Air pollutants or allergens can also cause eye irritation and worsenDry Eye. Try to avoid these irritants when possible.