Dr. Colston: Stated simply, dry eye syndrome is a condition in which a person does not have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Not only can this be uncomfortable but tears are necessary for maintaining a healthy front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision.
Dr. Colston: I always ask patients, at any point of the day can you “feel” your eyes? Do they get red? Do they water? Do they feel tired? All of these are classic symptoms of dry eye syndrome. After looking at your eyes and a few simple tests we can determine if the source of these problems is dry eyes, allergies, or an infection.
Q: What causes dry eyes?
Dr. Colston: Dry eyes are part of the natural aging process. Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes. Medications like antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medication and antidepressants all reduce tear production. Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to cause symptoms of dry eyes. Also, exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can result in tear evaporation and dry eyes. Looking at a computer or cell phone for long periods of time reduces our blink rate and is an extremely common cause of dry eye syndrome that I am seeing in a lot of patients.
Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the warmer spring and summer months?
Dr. Colston: Yes, in the winter we experience colder temperatures, dry air, and more windy conditions which leads to blasting the hot air indoors and in vehicles to warm up. All these factors add up to cause more dry eye problems in the winter. However, dry eyes is certainly not limited to just the winter months we treat dry eye problems year round with a lot of patients.
Q: When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of this problem yourself?
Dr. Colston: I do not recommend that a patient try to take care of dry eye symptoms on their own. I refer to the eye care aisle in drug stores as "the aisle of confusion" there are so many different eye drops all claiming to help relieve symptoms such as redness, dryness, irritation, and itching. While there are some great over-the-counter products that I recommend often, there are a lot of over-the-counter products that can cause more harm than good.
Q: I have a friend in whose eyes are frequently overly watery. That isn’t Dry Eye, is it?
Dr. Colston: It seems counter-intuitive but yes. The front surface of the eye is extremely sensitive. When the front surface of the eye becomes dry it sends signals to the brain triggering the brain to flood the eye with tears. This is one of the reasons I usually prescribe artificial tears or rewetting drops first thing in the morning or before someone is going to be doing computer work.
Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
Dr. Colston: Depending on the type of dry eye syndrome there are a variety of different treatments ranging from simple rewetting drops, lipid-based rewetting drops, preservative-free artificial tears, warm compresses, lid scrubs, topical steroids, prescription eye drops, punctal plugs, amniotic membranes, and vitamins. There are certainly many more options, but these are just a few of the common treatments. Come in today to discuss other options!
Q: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?
Dr. Colston: Yes, in general, dry eyes tend to be more prevalent in women, older patients, contact lens wearers, frequent screen (computer and phone) users, or patients who work in a dry environment. Patients with an autoimmune disease such as Sjogren's syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus often have very dry eyes.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
Dr. Colston: A few simple things that I recommend are using a humidifier in the winter, give your eyes a break while working on the computer or looking at your phone and try to remind yourself to blink more often while on screens. Use a warm washcloth to clean the lid margin and heat up the meibomian glands which are at the base of the eyelashes. I always tell patients to drink lots of water.