July is not only for firework safety, it is also Dry Eye Awareness Month!
More than 30 million people are affected by some degree of dry eye. Dry eye occurs when your eyes stop producing tears to properly protect themselves. It can also happen when your tears evaporate too quickly, or are not thick enough to be protective.
Symptoms range from feeling like there is a spec of sand in your eye, to a burning or stinging that won’t go away. Symptoms can be painful, and if left untreated can cause inflammation and blurred vision. Severe dry eye can damage your cornea, so it is important to contact your Ophthalmologist to schedule an exam.
There are several contributing factors, and people with auto-immune disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis have an elevated risk of developing dry eye. People that live in dry or windy climates, at higher elevations, or cities with smog have a higher occurrence of developing dry-eye. Sometimes it is as simple as the cosmetics you use, staring at a TV or computer screen for too long without blinking. Not removing or cleaning your contacts often enough can cause dry eye. As symptoms progress and are left untreated, dry eye can lead to diminished overall health, and even depression.
There are various treatment options, depending upon the severity of your dry eye. Once you have had an exam with your ophthalmologist, they may recommend over-the-counter artificial tears if your symptoms are easily treatable. If your symptoms are beyond what over-the-counter drops can provide, there are prescription options to aide in the natural production of tears. Tiny gel or silicone plugs can be inserted into your tear duct that help preserve your natural tears and help them stay in your eyes longer.
If your eyes are also red and swollen, warm compresses can be beneficial. Your Ophthalmologist may suggest over the counter eye cleaners to help alleviate those symptoms, as well.
Dry eye prevention tips:
Add moisture to the air in your home or office by using a humidifier.
Purchase wrap-around sunglasses that block the wind.
Increase your Omega 3 fatty acids in your diet with salmon and flax seed, or purchase Omega 3 supplements. Your Ophthalmologist can suggest some supplements that they feel offer the most benefit.
Avoid smoking or being exposed to 2nd hand smoke.
If you wear contacts, be sure to take them out and clean them at proper intervals, as directed by your Doctor.
If you experiencing any dry eye symptoms, please contact us at Oregon Eye Consultants to schedule an appointment at 541-687-1927 or on our website.
Resources: American Academy of Ophthalmology at aao.org and Research to Prevent Blindness at rpbusa.org