Is dry eye troubling you?
I seem to spend lots of time during eye exams talking about dry eyes - but it is unusual for anyone to actually tell me they feel their eyes are dry!
Most people talk about their eyes feeling gritty, tired or sore, or their vision going blurry sometimes, - or even that they are getting headaches, or find they are sensitive to bright light. - Contact lens wearers might tell me they have to take their lenses out in the early evening, because they are uncomfortable and their eyes get red.
But, - nobody says 'do I have dry eyes?'
So, - who does get dry eyes?
Well, the answer to that is it can affect just about anyone, but we certainly get more prone to dry eye as we get older, (particularly women) if we wear contact lenses, work in dry environments such as in air conditioned offices, use a computer, or have certain general health problems or use some medications.
Dry eye affects around 1 in 3 people, so it is just as much of an issue as eyesight problems.
But, - am I lacking tears? - My eyes actually water a lot!
Eyes are dry for one of two reasons; - either a lack of tears, or poor tear quality.
Lack of tears will happen in some circumstances, (age, health problems etc) but the most common reason for dry eye is poor tear quality. - Which sounds a bit strange, but if we understand a bit more about our tears, then it all starts to make sense. The tear film that continually bathes the eye surface is there to lubricate the surface (to maintain optical quality) and to nourish and protect it. Tear film is actually made up of 3 layers; - think of it a bit like a sandwich!
The back layer is mucus which helps ‘stick’ the tears to the eye surface, but also acts as a barrier to infection getting into the surface of the eye. (You definitely don’t want that!) The middle layer is the watery stuff which lubricates and nourishes the eye, and the front layer is an oily or lipid layer which stops the watery stuff from evaporating away too quickly.
So when we talk about poor tear quality, what we are really talking about is a problem with the oily layer, - which means we are suffering from our eyes drying out because the watery stuff is evaporating away too quickly. This is why your eyes then water, because the brain is getting the message that the eye surface is dry and sends a message back to the tear glands to produce more tears!
Makes sense so far, - but why am I deficient in this oily layer?
This happens because the special glands that produce the oily layer are not functioning properly. These glands are called Meibomium Glands and are situated along the edge of the eyelids. Whenyou blink the oil gets drawn from them over the tear layer and the eye surface. - All clever stuff, - but if you are not blinking enough (like when you stare at your computer for ages) then these glands get clogged up so the oil doesn’t spread over the eye. Or, the glands are not actually producing the oil properly.
Who would have thought that tears and blinking were so complicated!
Well it isn’t really complicated, but you will know you are suffering from irritated gritty eyes and possibly blurry vision or even headaches; - so come and have an eye exam so that we can sort out what is going on. - We are not here just to sell you glasses, but to look at all aspects of your vision care and to help you put things right.
So now we know I have dry eyes, - but what can we do about it?
There are several things we recommend to put a dry eye problem right, but it is really important to accurately assess the problem and then we can recommend the best action for you.
Systane BalanceGenerally I will talk about things such as using warm compresses to open those meibomian glands, use of lubricant eye drops and even use of supplements such as Omega 3.
Optifree Pure MoistFor all you contact lens wearers out there; - we will probably advise much the same, but also discuss your wearing schedules and also your care regimes. There are some excellent solution systems on the market which really help with getting all day comfortable wear of your lenses.
But what if it looks like I have an infection? - My lids are really red and sore!
So, this is probably a condition known as Blepharitis; - don’t panic as it isn’t serious, but it can take a bit of management to get it cleared up. If you have this, then we sometimes need to talk antibiotic eyedrops, but often the management of dry eye we talked about before will help , along with lid scrubs such as Sterilid.
So, - come and get some advice and we will have your eyes looking their sparkling best and feeling good again in no time.
By the way, - we used to recommend baby shampoo as a lid scrub, and you will often see this as a recommendation even now.
But to my way of thinking; - baby shampoo is best for this:
Not for this:
Any questions? – Contact us to find out more; – or to book an eye exam.