Dry eye is an eye condition that happens when there is a problem with our natural tears which moisten, protect, and cleanse the eyes. It can be caused if you do not produce enough tears, or your tears are not of the correct quality or your tears are not spread properly across the front of the eye. Up to a third of people aged 65 and over may have symptoms of dry eye and it is more common in women. As we age, our eyelids are not as effective at spreading tears each time we blink. In addition, the various glands in our eyes that produce tears may become less effective. Most of the time, dry eye can be well controlled with eye drops and/or eye ointment.
- mildly sensitive to light
- both eyes are usually affected
- associated with blepharitis-inflammation and crusting on the eyelids.
- excess tearing causing watery eyes.
- blurred vision which improves after blinking
Excess tearing might seem an unusual side-effect of dry eyes, but these are irritant tears and do not contain the correct balance of water and oil to lubricate the eyes. These irritant tears run off the eyes and can cause stinging and irritation to the delicate skin around the eye. Your Life pharmacist can advise you of a soothing eye cream to use to repair this damage.
CAUSES OF DRY EYE SYNDROME:
- use of contact lenses.
- prolonged computer use
- air-conditioned or heated or dusty environments
- use of certain medications.
- some auto-immune conditions e.g., rheumatoid arthritis
- hormonal changes e.g., pregnancy and menopause
- surgery to the eye e.g., laser eye surgery
Blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction are both very common causes of dry eye. Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids causing crusting on the eyelashes and may be caused by a bacterial infection.
Meibomian gland dysfunction happens when the glands which secrete oil into tears, and which line the upper and lower eyelids become blocked. Too little oil can cause your tears to evaporate too quickly, leaving the eye dry and uncomfortable.
Your Life Pharmacist can advise you on how to practice good lid hygiene to help treat blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction. Lid wipes and eyelid cleaning solutions are available to purchase.
MEDICATION WHICH CAN TRIGGER DRY EYES.
- diuretics and other blood pressure tablets
- anti-anxiety medication
- oral contraceptives
- pain medication
If left untreated, or your condition is severe, you are more likely to experience infections such as conjunctivitis.
Most people with dry eyes need to use artificial tear drops to make the eye more comfortable and prevent damage to the front of your eye.
There are many different brands available and your Life Pharmacist can advise you on the best product to suit your symptoms.
Preservatives in eye drops can sometimes cause further irritation to the eye therefore single dose units (sdu) may be a suitable alternative-especially when frequent use is required-e.g., greater than six times a day when managing severe dry eye.
In cases where symptoms are severe, products containing hyaluronic acid are a good choice since they stay in contact with the eye surface for a longer time.
Some people prefer to use thicker gel products that stay in the eye for longer and therefore do not need to be used just as often as drops.
Lubricating eye ointments are generally administered only at night since they can cause blurring of your vision. You apply them just before bedtime to keep your eyes moist overnight.
HOW TO MANAGE DRY EYE SYNDROME
- avoid triggers such as dry heat or air-conditioning.
- drink plenty of water and keep well hydrated.
- avoid dusty, windy, and smoky areas or use sunglasses if you have to come in contact with these environments.
- remember to blink often and take regular breaks when reading, watching television, or using a computer.
- try to have a healthy, balanced diet, with flaxseed as well as foods containing omega 3 and 6, such as oily fish, nuts, eggs, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.
- avoid using eye make-up if there is inflammation or infection present.
- remove contact lenses and wear glasses to give your eyes a rest
- use a dehumidifier-a small machine that puts water into the air
- using a warm compress
- use your eye drop or ointment exactly as recommended by your Doctor/Pharmacist/Optician
- stop smoking
- practice good eyelid and eyelash hygiene
Dry eye syndrome is a very common condition and your Life Pharmacist can advise you on which eye lubricant(s) to use and how to use the product(s) correctly in order to successfully manage and control your symptoms.
Our Life Pharmacists can also check your routine prescription to see if any of your medicines might cause dry eyes as a side-effect and then refer you to your GP to discuss the potential of being prescribed an alternative.
If necessary, our pharmacist can refer you to your GP if your symptoms are still severe after using eye lubricants for several weeks.
It is important to see your GP or optician at your earliest convenience if you experience any of the following:
- pain in your eyes
- severe redness in one eye
- impaired vision