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Dry Eyes Q&A with Dr Clark

Q: Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe during the winter months. Why?

Dry Eye symptoms can be worse during the winter months because of the contrast between the cold winter winds outside and the dry heat inside that can attack our eyes and cause moisture evaporation. Eyes dry out when the moisture evaporation is occurring faster than our tear glands can produce the fluids that help maintain the protective moist coating on our eyes.

Q: What are some common dry eye symptoms?

Many people say, "My eyes frequently are overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?" It turns out that excessive watery tearing is a very common, yet confounding, symptom of dry eyes. This watering is due to reflex tearing that occurs in response to the irritation caused by deficiencies in the eyes tear film. Patients with dry eyes often describe the irritation as itchy eyes, a burning sensation, a scratchy sensation or a gritty sensation.

Q: When should someone come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms?

Patients should book an appointment to have the eyes examined when their symptoms first start. It is much easier to tackle the effects of a dry eye when they are mild. It is always harder to treat any eye condition or disease after waiting for symptoms to become more advanced.

Q: How do you assess a patient for Dry Eyes?

Our dry eye exam focuses on checking the surface of the eye. The optometrist checks the ocular surface for several things. First, we may measure the volume of your tears or your tear production using the Schirmer test. Other tests use special dyes to determine the condition of the surface of your eyes by looking for staining patterns on the corneas and measuring how long it takes before your tears evaporate.

Q: How do you treat Dry Eyes?

The most common treatments for dry eye include over-the-counter eye drops to lubricate the front surface of the eyes, punctal plugs that can be inserted into the tear ducts to keep the tears on the surface of the eyes for a longer period of time, and vitamins such as fish-oil to increase the production of tears. There are other prescription medications as well that have been shown to increase one’s own tear production.

Q: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes?

Yes, there are may factors that can contribute to Dry Eyes. People who live or work in dry climates, dusty or polluted work environments or areas with low humidity often experience Dry Eyes due to evaporation of the tear film. Aging and hormonal changes can also increase the risk of Dry Eyes due to a decrease in tear secretion. Medication side effects can also contribute to Dry Eye development, e.g. certain antihistamines and antidepressants. Lid anatomy and certain diseases can also contribute to Dry Eyes. Also, people who spend a lot of time on the computer or read for long periods are more prone to Dry Eyes due to infrequent blinking.

Q: How can people manage or avoid Dry Eye issues?

The options vary depending on the underlying cause of the dryness as well as the severity of the symptoms. Using artificial tears is generally a good first step. Minimizing time on the computer, taking frequent breaks, and consciously remember to blink can be beneficial as well. Some people may benefit from adding a lubrication gel or ointment at bedtime. Other treatments involve lid scrubs and antibiotic therapy or anti-inflammatory eye drops (Restasis). Some dry eye patients may benefit from punctual plugs (blocks tears from draining) or may even require surgical intervention if lid abnormalities are present. Contact your eye doctor for more information and to see which treatment options are best suited for your specific issues. If you're in the Austin, TX area TSO Capital Plaza eye care practice is here for you.