Many will experience dry eyes at some stage during our lives. Often, it will resolve itself before it has a significant impact on our daily lives, and in many cases, before we ever realize that we have had the condition. However, for a percentage of sufferers, their dry eyes become a chronic and debilitating problem that requires them to seek professional support so that they can continue to enjoy a clear, comfortable vision. Fortunately, there is a selection of possible treatments, meaning that there is almost certainly a solution to alleviate your symptoms.
Dry eyes can be caused by a variety of different things, and while your eye doctor may be able to determine the underlying reason for your dry eyes, it is equally as likely that the true cause is never uncovered. Dry eyes typically occur because:
The eyes are no longer making enough tear film
The tear film is blocked from entering the eyes
The tear film is leaving the surface of the eyes too quickly
Some of the things that may contribute to the development of dry eyes include:
Certain autoimmune conditions, such as Lupus or Sjögren’s syndrome
Taking specific medications, including some antidepressants and blood pressure medications
Wearing contact lenses
Spending a lot of time looking at screens
Windy, cold, dry or dusty environments
Being over the age of 50
If you suffer from dry eyes, you are likely to experience a range of symptoms. Aside from the obvious dryness that may cause you to feel as though you need to try and blink to make them more comfortable, you might also notice that they seem red and sore, you may be sensitive to the light or notice stringy mucus in or around your eyes. Many patients also find that their vision isn’t as clear as it once was, and it may be particularly difficult to see well when driving at night. If you wear contact lenses, taking them out and putting them in may seem tricky.
Treatment for dry eyes starts with developing healthy eye habits at home and work and continues with professional support if it is needed. Your eye doctor will be able to make some specific recommendations to you as to lifestyle changes you should try to relieve your symptoms. This could include cutting back on screen time or taking regular breaks, turning the air conditioning off, or potentially even talking to your doctor about changing your medication.
If you can’t obtain enough relief from your symptoms using these changes alone, your eye doctor will be able to recommend a variety of treatments. In most cases, patients try a few options before settling on the one that works best for them. These include:
Artificial tears. These work by lubricating the eyes and can be used as many times during the day as needed to moisten them and make them more comfortable.
Prescription eye drops. These eye drops contain medications that help to reduce inflammation and blockages that may be causing your dry eyes. These are only available by prescription and must be used exactly as directed. Steroid eye drops are very effective but can only be used safely short term.
Punctual plugs. These are tiny little inserts that are placed into the drainage channels of the eyes to prevent tear film from draining away too quickly. As a result, it stays on the surface of the eyes for longer, keeping your eyes lubricated and comfortable.
Lipiflow. Lipiflow is a thermal pulsation treatment that combines heat and massage to remove any blockages that may be preventing tear film from entering the eyes. The device takes a matter of minutes and can provide relief from dry eyes for several months at a time.
Intense pulsed light. Also known as IPL, this popular skin treatment is now being used to help alleviate the symptoms associated with dry eyes. It works by reducing inflammation and most patients require a series of treatments to achieve the optimal effect.
If you are concerned about dry eyes and would like more information about the condition, or to schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms, don’t hesitate to get in contact with our experienced eye care team in Walla Walla, WA today.