Tens of millions of Americans have dry eye disease, a condition that occurs when the tear film is not the quality, stability and consistency needed to maintain the health of the ocular surface. In an effort to educate the public on the risk factors, symptoms and treatment options, the nation’s oldest non-profit eye health organization, Prevent Blindness, has officially coined July as Dry Eye Awareness Month.
What are the symptoms of Dry Eye Disease?
There are many symptoms of dry eye, such as light sensitivity, ocular burning or stinging, a gritty or sandy sensation, contact lens discomfort, redness and inflammation. The National Eye Institute (NEI) also states that if severe dry eye is not effectively treated, it may lead to corneal damaged.
What are risk factors for Dry Eye Disease?
Dry Eye is a multi-factorial, chronic and progression condition. Some of the many risk factors include:
- Prolonged screen time
- Refractive surgery (for example, Lasik)
- Inflammation of the eyelids
- Environmental conditions, such as allergies, or a dry climate
- Certain medications such as anti-histamines, birth control, anti-depressants
- Overwear of contact lenses
- Improper application and removal of cosmetics (eye makeup)
- Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Diabetes, Thyroid, Rosacea, Sjogren’s syndrome, and certain other autoimmune diseases
- Patients over 50 years old
Are women at greater risk?
In addition to the above, women are particularly suspectible. Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, while on birth control and when experiencing menopause, women are twice as likely to develop dry eye than men.
What can be done for Dry Eye Disease?
Fortunately, dry eye disease, especially in the early stages, is highly treatable and there are many steps we can take for relief, including diet or lifestyle changes, use of preservative-free lubricating drops, high quality supplements formulated for dry eye, and office-based therapies. The best way to protect your vision is to schedule an annual eye exam to ensure your eyes are healthy.