Eyes Burning and Watering? Dry Eye Season in Here!

Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) is a condition that affects much of the population and many people don’t realize that they have the condition. The severity of DES can vary greatly for one individual to the next. The most common symptoms of DES include watering or burning eyes, gritty sensation, itching, blurred vision and eye redness. For some this can be an intermittent nuisance, for others it can be a debilitating problem which can lead to ocular surface disease in which the clear cornea can be damaged.

Usually there is not a single cause for DES but rather a combination of problems that cause symptoms. Here is a list of a the most common causative agents for DES:

Computer Use and Reduced Blink Rate:  Blinking circulates your tears and keeps your eyes continually bathed and moisturized. Computer work reduces blink rates significantly as we tend to stare at the computer which can lead to DES.

Environmental Factors and Exposure: Low humidity during the winter months dries out everything including your eyes. Wind blowing across the eyes, dry air from heat vents in the car and in your home can contribute to DES.  Exposure to chemicals, paints and other eye irritating substance can break up the tear film and contribute to DES.

Age: as we get “less young” tear production decreases.

Gender: females more than males have decreased tear production during the middle aged years.

Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids): There are several different types of glands inside of the eyelids and along the eyelashes which secrete tears and lubricants that keep the eye moist. Inflammation of these glands called Blepharitis can cause a decrease in tear production. Click here to watch a video on this. Blepharitis video

LASIK Surgery: Surgeries to reduce your dependence on glasses or contacts can cause decreased corneal sensitivity resulting in less stimulation for tear production leading to DES.

Chronic Inflammation of the Cornea and Surface of the Eye:  An inflamed eye cannot make sufficient tears.  A dry eye is often inflamed from other factors leading to more dry eye and more inflammation.

Contact Lenses:  A contact lens is a foreign body in the eye and can increase inflammation in addition to displacing the tears which keep the eyes lubricated.

Dry Eye Syndrome Treatments:

Take frequent breaks from the computer and blink more.

Avoid heat vents blowing directly at your face.

Wear Sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from the sun and from wind blowing across your eyes.

Turn up the humidity in your house

Lubricating eye drops:

Many different types of eyedrops are available over the counter. AVOID all forms of Visine or other “eye whitening” products which may make your eyes temporarily look better but the whitening chemicals make your eye even more dry.  If possible, use only name brand preservative free (in tubes not bottles). Preservatives in bottles increase inflammation and can cause more dry eye.  Retaine preservative is my favorite lubrication drop and a 60 day supply (used twice daily) can be purchased in our clinic for $20.

Blepharitis Control: Lid hygiene with Q-tips and diluted baby shampoo can be quite effective in controlling blepharitis. Teatree Oil and oral Tetracycline can also be useful in treating certain types of blepharitis.

Anti-inflammatories, Steroids, and Restasis

Anti-inflammatories for dry eye reduce inflammation and allow your eyes to produce more and better quality tears.  Great over the counter anti-inflammatories include omega 3 fatty acids (fish oil and flax seed oil – at least 1000mg per day) and Tumeric (800-1200) per day.

Prescription steroid eyedrops are the most potent anti-inflammatories and work great for dry eye but can have side effects, can only be used for short periods of time, and must be closely monitored by your doctor.

Restasis and the new Xiidra are non-steroidal prescription eyedrops that can safely reduce inflammation and dry eye symptoms . However, they can be quite expensive and can take several months for full effect.

Punctal Plugging is another option in which we insert small plugs into the ports that drain your tears. This results in your tears staying in your eyes longer before they drain into your nose and eventually into your throat.

The first step in determining the causes of your dry eye is to visit our clinic for a dry eye evaluation. We can help you pick and choose from treatment options to determine you best treatment plan.  Or click here to take this short dry eye quiz. Dry Eye Quiz Once complete, please print it off and bring it into the clinic with you to review with Dr. Steve to determine your treatment plan.