Are your Colorado dry eyes bothering you? You may suffer from dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome affects, an estimated, 40 million people worldwide – 16 million in the United States. That is not the only scary statistic. Doctors expect chronic dry eyes to increase exponentially (to approximately 29 million in the US) over the next 10-15 years. This can be thanks to our use of computers and mobile devices.

Additionally, living in Colorado can create some pretty intense dry eye symptoms. So, what is dry eye syndrome? What can be done to help? Do electronics worsen this syndrome? Find out!

What is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is caused essentially a lack of lubrication on the surface of the eye. This can create inflammation. Inflammation can irritate the eye. Additionally, dry eye and swelling can even cause scarring on the surface of the eye.

In addition to being called Dry eye syndrome, dry eye disease, or simply “dry eye,” alternative medical terms used to describe dry eyes include:

  • Keratitis sicca. Generally used to describe dryness and inflammation of the cornea.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Used to describe dry eye that affects both the cornea and the conjunctiva.
  • Dysfunctional tear syndrome. Used to emphasize that inadequate quality of tears can be just as important as inadequate quantity.

Do I have dry eye syndrome?

Since so many Americans suffer from dry eyes, it is important to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do your eyes burn?
  2. Are your eyes tired?
  3. Do your eyes itch?
  4. Do your eyes ache?
  5. Are your eyes sore?
  6. Do you suffer from a dryness sensation in your eye? Or a sensation that something (object or material) is in your eye?
  7. Are your eyes red?
  8. Are you sensitive to light?
  9. Is your vision blurry?

If you answered “yes” to all of these questions, but still have watery eyes, you may still have dry eye syndrome. If you suffer from watery eyes in addition to dry eye symptoms, it is likely that your eye is trying to produce tears to help with the dry eyes but because the eyes surface is so dry the tears are not enough to correct the dry eye.

You have determined you have dry eyes – I mean you do live in Colorado, right? – now we can talk about what causes dry eye syndrome.

Much like a balanced diet, your eyes produce tears with a purpose. Just like your body needs fats, proteins, and carbohydrates your eyes need lipid, aqueous, and mucin. Those are just fancy ways of saying an oily portion, a watery portion, and a mucous portion. Each have an equally important role in keeping your eyes healthy. Without tears to help lubricate your eyes surface, you wouldn’t be able to combat dust or debris which can lead to damaging corneas or eye infections.

Back to our three components. They all play an important role. Lipids, produced by Meibomian glands behind the eye lid, keep the tear from evaporation, creating a better environment for the eye to take in the liquid. The mucin, produced by glands near the conjunctiva or whites of the eye, anchors and spreads the tear across the entire eye. Finally, the watery portion of the tear is produced by lacrimal glands or upper eyelids.

An issue at any point in the process can create issues within the eye leading to dry eye syndrome. The specific type of dry eye will help the doctor proscribe the best treatment. Our optometrists are happy to see you for your dry eyes and help find relief that works!

Researchers have stated they are finding correlation with springtime allergens and dry eye syndrome.

How can I help relieve my dry eye syndrome? 

At the end of the day, there are proven factors that contribute to chronic dry eyes. Here are a few, and what you can do to help.

  1. Computer/phone/tablet usage: we like to tell people to follow a 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 min you are on a device, look away 20 feet for 20 seconds. It may be hard to follow, so we recommend having Siri or Alexa set a reminder for you. Remember your vision is SO important!
  2. Contact lens wear: there are several reasons contact lenses can create or increase dry eyes. It is important to get regular contact lens fittings and speak with your optometrist about any symptoms you may have. Daily contacts can decrease the feeling of dry eye. Additionally, there are multi-focal contact lenses! So, don’t forget to ask our staff for more information.
  3. Aging/Hormone changes: it’s true. Our hormones tend to affect our vision. Post-menopausal woman are at a higher risk for dry eyes.
  4. Environment: Fans, HVAC, Arid climates, wind, being on an airplane, etc. These things can affect your dry eyes increasing the discomfort.
  5. Smoking: If you missed our new year’s resolution blog about how smoking affects your eyes, don’t forget to check it out!
  6. Medications/health conditions: certain health conditions (diabetes, lupis, etc.) can create an increase in dry eyes. Prescriptions can also affect the risk.
  7. Eye anatomy issues: for example, if you sleep with your eyes open. If you sleep and blink while sleeping (lagophthalmos) this can create dry eyes as well.
  8. LASIK: LASIK can sometimes contribute to dry eyes.

Now what?

We have filled you in on what dry eye syndrome is, what causes it, and how to know if you have it. What about HOW TO TREAT IT!!! You may have scrolled to this because your eyes are too dry to read the rest – that is okay! We can let you know how to treat your dry eyes!

The BEST way to treat dry eyes is to meet with a doctor. There are several effective treatments in addition to habit changes that can resolve or improve your dry eyes. Since there are so many causes for dry eyes, there are just as many treatments. The best way to find a plan that will work best for you is to meet with one of our doctors. Do not delay! Contact us now to get dry eye relief!