Dry eye disease affects an estimated 40 million people in the U.S., but only a small fraction of those people have been diagnosed and are receiving treatment.
July is Dry Eye Disease Awareness Month, dedicated to the education about dry eyes, risks of the condition and treatment options available.
What is Dry Eye Disease?
Dry eye disease, or dry eyes, is a condition in which there is either insufficient tear production or the quality of tears produced is poor. Tears serve a number of purposes, including providing lubrication and nourishment to the eyes, protecting the cornea, helping to prevent infection and keeping foreign matter out of the eyes.
Dry eye is a common, chronic condition that is irritating and sometimes painful. It can cause an itching, scratchy or burning sensation in the eyes as well as blurred vision.
What Are the Risk Factors and Causes Dry Eye Disease?
Dry eye disease can affect anyone, though it primarily affects older adults. According to the American Optometric Association, the majority of people over age 65 will experience some symptoms of dry eyes. Women are also more likely than men to experience dry eyes due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause.
Other possible causes of dry eyes include:
- Long-time contact lens wear
- Some medications, such as antihistamines, certain blood pressure medicines, antidepressants, birth control pills and medications for Parkinson’s disease
- Environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, pollution and windy or dry conditions
- The natural aging process, especially menopause
- Medical symptoms such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, ocular rosacea, Sjogren’s syndrome and some eyelid conditions
- Insufficient blinking (such as when looking at a computer screen)
- LASIK and other refractive eye surgeries
- Environmental factors such as exposure to smoke, high wind and dry climates
How Are Dry Eyes Diagnosed and Treated?
Your eye doctor will be able to see signs of dry eyes during a routine comprehensive eye exam. Measurement of the quantity and quality of your tears can also be used to test for any abnormalities in tear production.
Although dry eyes can be a chronic condition, there are treatment options available to keep your eyes comfortable and help prevent damage to your vision, including over-the-counter lubricating eye drops, prescription eye drops, supplements and in-office treatment such as LipiFlow®. Treating dry eyes depends on the patient’s symptoms and the type of dry eye. Stay tuned for our next article on dry eye treatment options.
Do you think you may have dry eyes? Take our dry eye quiz to find out if your symptoms might be related to dry eyes.
If you experience chronic itching, burning, scratching or blurred vision, contact Key-Whitman today. An exam with the Dallas dry eye specialists at Key-Whitman will determine the cause of your dry eyes and the most appropriate course of treatment.