Dry eye syndrome is a common condition with symptoms including blurred vision, redness, burning, stinging, and itchy eyes. Although the condition is typically chronic and progressive over time, most cases can be managed using effective treatment strategies.
Although chronic dry eyes can affect people of any age, it occurs most frequently among older individuals as the body’s ability to produce tears diminishes naturally over time.
Environmental factors, such as exposure to excessive winds, dry air, enclosed air-conditioned spaces, can also contribute to dry eye syndrome. Avoiding these types of environments for long periods of times, or using a humidifier in dry spaces, can help to alleviate symptoms.
Those who wear contact lenses are often affected, as the lenses tend to absorb too much moisture from the eye. If dryness and discomfort occur, an optometrist may prescribe a different type of contact lens or recommend moisturizing eye drops.
Certain medications have been known to aggravate chronic dry eyes, such as antidepressants, birth control pills, cold decongestants, diuretics, and painkillers.
Dry eye syndrome can also arise concurrently with pre-existing illnesses and conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, lupus, vitamin A deficiency, menopause, shingles, Bell’s Palsy, scleroderma, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and refractive eye surgeries.
Prevention and Treatment
Preventative measures include adopting a healthy diet to support the proper functioning of the eyes. Eye health can be improved and maintained with diets high in vitamin A, as well as foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, such as certain kinds of fish, olive oil, canola oil, flax oil, flax seed, hemp seed, pumpkin seeds, soybeans, walnuts, cauliflower, and tofu.
Over-the-counter eye drops designed to moisturize and lubricate are recommended over those solely aimed at reducing redness. If these fail to work, optometrists can prescribe specialized eye drops to alleviate the uncomfortable, and sometimes painful, symptoms associated with dry eyes. For instance, eyedrops such as Restasis are commonly prescribed for chronic dry eyes and work to increase the production of tears while reducing discomfort and inflammation.
Although there is no cure for chronic dry eyes, awareness of its causes and treatment options can help to alleviate and minimize its symptoms.
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