In the Boston area, cold winter air means air low in humidity content. If you are experiencing symptoms like irritated, scratchy, burning eyes, excess watering or have the feeling that something is in the eye, you could be suffering from dry eye. And while environmental factors (wind, high altitude, dry air) can cause temporary dry eye, other causes include the use of certain medicines, such as:
• Certain types of drugs used to treat high blood pressure
• Antihistamines and decongestants
• Certain anti-depressants
• Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and naproxen
Tasks that require concentration, such as working at a computer, driving, or reading can also contribute.
Dry eye, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is a condition in which there are adequate tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. This condition often occurs in people who are otherwise healthy, and becomes more common as we age. While there is no prevention, there are many treatment options available. Hot compresses, eyelash cleaning and artificial tears (wetting drops) provide relief from dry, itchy eyes. Topical corticosteroids and oral tetracycline are also available.
Quantity of tears is not the only cause of this eye irritant. The quality of tears made matters. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. They reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter, keep the surface of the eye smooth and clear. While your eyes may be producing enough tears, the quality of the tears may not be sufficient for the lubrication of your eyes. Tears are composed of three layers: oil, water and mucus. Each layer has an important function. The oil prevents evaporation of the water layer, while the mucus spreads the tears evenly over the surface of the eye. If deficient in any one area, these tears may not exceptionally perform their intended purpose: to keep the eye clear, clean and moist.
Before visiting an eye doctor, it would be wise to spend the time to prepare yourself with the following:
• Write down any symptoms you are experiencing
• Write down key personal information, such as major stresses or recent life changes
• Make a list of all medication currently being taken, including vitamins and supplements
• Write down questions to ask your eye doctor, such as what is causing my dry eye? Is my dry eye temporary or chronic? What type of treatment do you recommend?
There are a wide range of treatments for dry eye. Over-the-counter or prescription artificial tears may be suggested by your eye doctor. A change in diet and increasing the amount of your daily water intake may also be suggested. Another treatment for dry eye is having tiny plugs, called Punctal Plugs, placed in the tear drain ducts to help the tears stay on the surface of the eye.