Around 48% of the U.S. adult population experience an eye condition known as dry eye, yet only a very small percentage of them realize that they are experiencing a treatable condition. We regularly see patients who visit us experiencing a range of unpleasant or debilitating symptoms and are able to provide a diagnosis and recommend a suitable treatment for their dry eye.
Dry eye is an eye condition characterized by the primary symptom, dry eye. Our eyes rely on a steady flow of tear film onto their surface, which helps keep them hydrated and comfortable. This tear film is comprised of oils, proteins, and water. When there isn’t enough tear film being produced, or if the quantities of each of the elements aren’t properly balanced, patients can experience the symptoms of dry eye.
Dry eye can affect anyone, but there are some things that make you more likely to experience the condition. These include:
- Taking certain medications, including some types of blood pressure medications and antidepressants
- Having specific medical conditions, including blepharitis, autoimmune disorders, and Sjögren’s syndrome
- Wearing contact lenses
- Spending long hours looking at digital devices without adequate breaks
- Working or living in air-conditioned or artificially heated environments
- Drinking more than the advised amount of alcohol
- Taking recreational drugs
Patients who are over the age of 50 are also at greater risk of developing dry eye.
Many of the symptoms that occur in patients with dry eye are very mild, meaning that they are easily overlooked as signs of an actual treatable condition. However, many patients do find that their symptoms get worse over time, and eventually can have a significant impact on their quality of life. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of dry eye include the following:
- Eyes that feel itchy and irritated
- Feeling as though you have something inside your eye
- Your eyes may be painful, red, and swollen
- You may find yourself opening your eyes wide to try and stretch them
- Eyes feel dry and you blink repeatedly to try and lubricate them
- Vision is blurred or you have to blink repeatedly to focus
- Your eyes are more sensitive to light
- You experience sudden bouts of excessive tearing, which is your body trying to flood the eyes to counteract the dryness
If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, contact our eyecare team to schedule an eye exam where we can confirm a diagnosis and get you started on the right treatment to help, before you develop any serious symptoms or potential complications.
Fortunately, there are a variety of options for treating dry eye. Which treatment is recommended will depend on your personal circumstances, but we will usually start with the simplest and least invasive treatment.
One of the first treatments that we may recommend to help counteract your dry eye symptoms is eye drops. There are numerous types of eye drops available including XiidraÒ and RestatisÒ.
XiidraÒ is a prescription-only type of eye drops that works by counteracting inflammation which could be contributing to your dry eyes. In fact, XiidraÒ is the only FDA-approved treatment that is specifically indicated for treating the symptoms of dry eyes. It is administered twice each day, once in the morning and once in the evening around 12 hours apart. You may initially experience a small amount of discomfort or blurred vision when placing the drops in your eyes, but this will only last a few minutes. With regular use, patients can start to experience an improvement in their symptoms in as little as 2 weeks from beginning treatment.
RestasisÒ is another popular and effective eye drop used in the treatment of chronic dry eye. It works by increasing the eye’s natural tear production by counteracting inflammation. Again, RestasisÒ should be used twice each day, every day, at least 12 hours apart. It’s normal to experience some stinging when the eye drops are applied, but again, this should only last for a few moments. Consistent use is key, with patients experiencing an increase in tear production by 3 months after starting treatment.
If eye drops are not providing enough relief from your dry eye symptoms, you may be recommended to try tiny, biocompatible devices called punctal plugs. These are placed into the tear ducts to block drainage, preventing the tear film from leaving the surface of the eye as quickly. There are two types of punctal plugs – some which are eventually absorbed by the body, and others which will need to be removed surgically. Placement and removal is done using a local anesthetic and there is no downtime associated with the procedure.
If you are suffering from dry eye and would like more information about the condition or treatment options, please schedule an appointment with Santa Barbara Eyecare by calling our friendly and knowledgeable team at (805) 967-9990