1. Common Symptoms of Dry Eyes
The symptoms of dry eye can vary wildly. Dry eyes can be quite severe clinically while being almost asymptomatic to the patient, and on the other hand, even a mild dry eye can also cause the patient to feel just terrible. Because of the former situation, a fair bit of damage can be happening to the ocular surface or glands in the eyelids before it become a “big issue” for the patient.
Common symptoms of dry eye include:
- Feeling of dryness
- Tired eyes
- Red eyes
- Watering eyes (yes we know that sounds stupid)
- Blurry Vision
- Light Sensitivity
- Stingy or Burning Sensation
- and much more!
2. Screens make our dry eyes worse
We blink about 35% less when looking at any type of screen! If you don’t blink as much, your tear film will break down naturally before you would normally blink again to replenish your tears. As a result your eyes get more dry more quickly. This is often why your eyes can get quite red after long periods of computer. If your natural tears tend to break up even quicker than normal, this makes it even worse again. This tear break up time is an example of one clinical measurement that your Optometrist can measure to help diagnose the correct cause of your dry eyes.
This same effect can happen in any situation where you are concentrating on something for a prolonged time. This could be tasks such as watching TV/ movies, reading a book, and studying.
3. There are many levels to dry eye
Many different classification systems exist, we will not bore you with this. All you really need to know is how bad your dry eyes are ranging from mild to moderate to severe, all the way up to Sahara. A thorough dry assessment will be able to give us an idea of the cause and severity grading.
Why does it matter? Because as dry eye practitioners, we will treat a clinically mild dry eye very differently from a clinically severe dry eye, which we may want to treat more aggressively. It also has a baring on your visual outcome and how often we may want to review you. Leaving a terribly dry eye untreated for a long period of time can sometimes lead to irreversible damage to you eye or even some degree of permanent vision loss.
4. Dry Eye is connected to Inflammation
It is very well known and accepted now that dry eyes are at the very least usually associated with, or sometimes mostly caused by, some sort of inflammatory process. Because of this some eye drops used to relieve chronic or severe dry eyes are designed to reduce inflammation in and around the eye. Going even further, we often work with your doctor and other allied health professionals to actively recommend treatments that can reduce systemic inflammation.…… and that’s a great segue onto the next point!
5. Omega-3 Can Help
Omega-3 supplements (most commonly fish oil) have been proven to greatly reduce symptoms of dry eyes by stimulating the production of oil in our glands in the eye. This lipid layer forms a protective barrier on top of the aqueous (watery) part of our tears which helps to hold the tear film in place and also prevent evaporation. Problems in this lipid layer are one of the most common causes od dry eye. Omega-3 is also currently actively recommended for a wide range of other inflammatory conditions and it also helps reduce ocular inflammation.
6. Protection from the Sun is Important
Especially here in Australia the damaging rays of UV light from the sun can dramatically reduce our eyes ability to maintain a healthy tear film – leading to dry eyes. The tissues in and around the surface of the eye are very sensitive and can be easily damaged by harmful UV rays.Check out some more information on sun protection here
Its important to ask your optometrist if your current sunglasses protect from UVA and UVB rays effectively. Sunglasses can also help protect your eyes on windy days which can help with how quickly your tear evaporate.
7. Dry Eyes are Common and get worse with Age
Dry eyes are probably one the most common (if not most common) condition that a clinical Optometrist will encounter on a day to day basis. Almost everyone in their life will suffer from some form of dry eyes at sometime in their life. 30% of the population will suffer from dry eyes chronically.
As you get older, dry eyes become much more prevalent and alongside other possible early age related issues, dry eyes can really have a massive effect on the quality of vision and thus your quality of life also. Even a lot of graduate Optometrists do not really realise the TRUE effect a dry eye can have on your ability to read the eye chart until they see it for themselves.