Dry Eye Disease Awareness Month


July is dry eye disease awareness month!

Did you know that dry eye disease is one of the most common ocular problems affecting the general population today? In fact, more than 40 million people in the USA suffer from the often-debilitating problem. Additionally, less than 5% of the dry eye disease patient population has been properly diagnosed and treated, according to HealthCare Maintenance Organizations data.

There can be many causes of dry eye. Your eye doctor may use various approaches to relieve the symptoms.

Dry eye is typically managed as an ongoing condition. The first priority is to determine if a disease is the underlying cause of the dry eye (such as Sjögren’s syndrome or lacrimal and meibomian gland dysfunction). If it is, then the underlying disease needs to be treated.

Artificial tears are one of the most common treatments of dry eye. Artificial tears are eye drops used to lubricate dry eyes and help maintain moisture on the outer surface of your eyes. Besides lubricating your eyes, some artificial tears contain electrolytes. These additives may promote healing of the ocular surface. Artificial tears may also contain thickening agents, which keep the solution on the surface of your eyes longer.

In some cases, dry eye can be a side effect of taking a medication. If this is the case, your doctor may recommend switching medications to one that does not have dry eye as a side effect.

Another cause of dry is is contact lens wear. Luckily, there are a number of contact lenses that your eye care practitioner can prescribe. They may also recommend reducing the number of hours you wear your lenses. In the case of severe dry eye, your physician may advise you not to wear contact lenses at all.

Some patients may also have the option to plug the drainage holes, small circular openings at the inner corners of the eyelids where tears drain from the eye into the nose. Lacrimal plugs, also called punctal plugs, can be inserted painlessly by an eye care professional. The patient usually does not feel them. These plugs are made of silicone or collagen, are reversible, and are a temporary measure. In severe cases, permanent plugs may be considered.

Many patients that suffer from dry eye benefit from supplements or dietary sources (such as tuna fish) or omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA and EPA), which may decrease symptoms of irritation. The use and dosage of nutritional supplements and vitamins should be discussed with your doctor.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry eye disease, such as dryness, soreness, burning, grittiness or eye fatigue, schedule a consultation with an eye care practitioner.