Do your eyes burn? Sting? Water a lot? Feel gritty? You may have dry eyes.
Dry eyes is a common ocular disorder in both men and women. Signs and symptoms can include excess tearing, light sensitivity, gritty or sandy feeling, intermittent pain, soreness, redness and fluctuating blurriness. There are many factors that can cause dry eyes: hormones, heavy computer use, excessive near work, medications, working in low humidity or dusty environments, contact lens wear, allergies and inflammatory medical conditions.
There are three main types of dry eyes: evaporative, aqueous deficient and inflammatory. Most people have the evaporative type, however you can get overlap among all three. The treatment regimen differs among the different types, so it is best to have a dry-eye evaluation by your eye doctor to determine what is the best course of treatment for your eyes.
It is important for patients to understand that there is no “cure” for dry eyes. There is no magic pill or eyedrop that will fix your symptoms. It is a chronic condition that will require constant maintenance therapy to keep your eyes comfortable and symptom-free most of the time. Remember, dry eyes do not develop overnight. It takes months or even years to get to the point where you begin to experience the symptoms of dry eyes, and it will take many months of good compliance with therapy to get back to happy eyes.
Some tips that we all should follow in our day-to-day activities:
- Hydrate! Drink lots of water. It’s great for every part of your body, including your eyes.
- Take frequent breaks from heavy computer or near work. For every 30 minutes of staring at your computer/tablet/smartphone/paperwork/books, stop and look away at something in the distance for 20 seconds (alternatively, you can close your eyes for 20 seconds), then resume what you were doing. Your eyes need this break in order to minimize dry-eye symptoms, eye fatigue and double vision.
- Women: Remove your eye makeup well at night. Do not get lazy and sleep with your eye makeup on. Over time, your eye makeup will clog up the oil gland pores that are located on the eyelid margins and lead to dry eyes. Also, soap and water are NOT good enough to remove eye makeup; use proper eye makeup remover.
- There are only a few good over-the-counter artificial tears that are worth your hard-earned cash. Talk to your eye doctor for a recommendation. And keep in mind that these OTC dry-eye eyedrops are only a small part of the treatment regimen.
- Contact lens wearers: Follow the care and replacement schedule for your particular brand of contact lens given to you by your eye doctor. Clean (i.e., digital rub) your lenses every night with a good-quality solution. Replace your lenses at their scheduled time and not “when they feel bad.” Replace your contact lens case every three months at the latest. If this proper care regimen is too much hassle for you, then consider switching to daily disposable contact lenses. These are single-use lenses that you throw away every night — no cleaning, no solutions, no cases. These lenses have become more popular over the last few years because of their convenience factor, but they are also great for dry eye and allergy sufferers, part time wearers, and business/vacation travel.