For many, dry eye can be an uncomfortable and inconvenient condition. For some, it can be far more devastating.
In a study, it was determined that, in its worst form, dry eye can have a bigger impact on quality of life than a disabling hip fracture. This demonstrates how the impact of chronic pain and vision loss on patients with dry eye can be disabling and difficult to live with.
What is dry eye?
Dry eye happens when there are insufficient tears within the eye to keep it lubricated. Dry eye can happen to anyone, but the risk of developing it increases as you get older.
The most at risk group are post-menopausal women. Studies show that 6.8% of adults in the US are living with dry eye disease – this equates to more than 22 million sufferers.
The symptoms of dry eye
The symptoms of dry eye can vary in severity. They include:
- A scratchy sensation in the eye, or feeling like there is a foreign body in the eye
- Stinging, burning, or itching eyes
- Eyes that feel dry then start to water excessively
- Discharge from the eye
- Pain in the eye
- Redness of the eye
- Heavy eyelids
- Eyes that are easily tired
- Blurred vision
How dry eye happens
Healthy eyes are constantly bathed by tears, which are produced by different glands within and around the eye. Tears are made up of a mix of oils, mucus, water, and proteins and are designed to keep the surface of the eye smooth and free of debris and irritants.
When one or all of the glands are not working properly, or the moisture balance of tears is affected, the eye can become chronically dry. This leads to the cornea becoming irritated and inflamed and can contribute to deterioration in vision.
Sometimes the cause of dry eye isn’t obvious, but it can be a side effect of certain medications, such as antihistamines or antidepressants. It can also have an environmental cause, like cigarette smoke. Certain autoimmune diseases can also contribute to developing dry eye, as can hormonal changes, which is why menopause is so often a trigger for women.
One of the most common causes of dry eye in modern times is excessive screen time, which discourages natural blinking patterns. This can leave younger people vulnerable to developing dry eye, whereas many years ago it was mostly a condition suffered by the older generation.
It is important you see Dr. Patel for a treatment plan
As mentioned before, a study about the impact of dry eye on quality of life showed that, in its advanced stages, the condition can have devastating effects on vision and quality of life.
Because the eye is unable to leave an effective tear film over the surface of the eye, the cornea is vulnerable to damage from irritants and inflammation. This can be extremely painful, and can also lead to permanent vision loss.
When diagnosing dry eye, Dr. Patel will examine your eyes and talk through your symptoms with you. She will also perform a test with a strip of paper that will determine how efficient your tears are at protecting your eyes, and how much you are producing.
Treatment options can be very effective
If Dr. Patel confirms that you do suffer from dry eye, she will discuss with you the severity of your condition and all the treatment options available. If your condition is caused as a side effect of medication, the first step may be to try an alternative.
Dr. Patel will talk you through the self-care you can do to manage your condition and prevent it from getting worse, like using a humidifier at home and limiting screen time.
Classic Vision Care has offered many patients throughout the Atlanta metro area relief from their dry eye disease through offering various treatments, including artificial tears, medicated eye drops, and steroid treatment.
Arrange an appointment at either of our Atlanta, Kennesaw, or Marietta, Georgia clinics with Dr. Patel for an expert overview of your eye health and to stop dry eye from progressing to permanent eye damage.