We often take our eyes for granted, rarely giving them much thought. That is at least until something is wrong. Between the computer and our phones, we put our eyes through a lot each day. And we’ve all experienced those days after a long day of work when our eyes are screaming at us because they are tired. The dryness and the irritation…
Fortunately, for most of us, a few drops and several hours without screen time can help relieve the burning and itching. But for almost 16 million Americans, this “eye screaming” is a regular occurrence that doesn’t go away quite so easily and can make daily life sometimes a bit of a challenge.
It’s a condition called dry eye disease. It develops when the tear glands aren’t able to produce enough natural tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Dry eye can leave your eyes burning, itching, watering, almost like sandpaper, and as if something is stuck in them. This can also cause your vision to become blurry or sensitive to light.
If you’re one of the millions suffering from this debilitating eye disorder, read on to learn more about how to treat dry eye and possibly get some relief.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Tears don’t just form when we are sad. They are an essential means for moisture and lubrication, no matter our mood and emotions. Our natural tears are made up of water, oils, mucus, and antibodies. Sometimes, our environment can try out our tear film. For example, if you’ve ever had the air conditioner or heater blowing right into your face, you’ve probably experienced a dryness to your eyes.
Dry eye develops either because your tears evaporate too quickly or you’re not producing enough to spread around your eyes. In addition to environmental factors, other causes for dry eye include:
- Natural aging process
- Side effects of certain medications, such as those for allergies, depression, and high blood pressure
- A blockage in the oil glands responsible for keeping your eyes moist
- Diseases that affect your ability to make tears, like diabetes, arthritis, and Sjogren’s syndrome
- Not blinking enough, such as when you stare at the computer for too long
How Are Dry Eyes Treated?
Treatment for dry eyes is dependent on what’s causing your eyes to be dry. Fortunately, dry eye can usually be easily treated with various methods. Some of the most common ways to get rid of dry eye include:
OTC Eye Drops – This is probably the most common treatment for dry eye. Eye drops create artificial tears that help to supplement your natural tears and provide lubrication for your eyes. Over-the-counter eye drops are typically pretty effective for most dry eye cases. They can be used in a gel or ointment form as well.
Prescription Medication – If you’re unable to find relief with over-the-counter eye drops for dry eye, your provider may prescribe a stronger medicated eye drop or ointment to help your eyes make more tears.
Punctal Plugs – If your doctor determines that your tears drain too quickly from your eyes, tear duct plugs, also called punctal plugs, may be an option. Punctal plugs are tiny silicone devices that are inserted into your tear ducts to block fluid and stop your eyes from draining so quickly. This procedure is called punctal occlusion. Punctal plugs can be used as a long-term treatment for dry eye.
LipiFlow – This FDA-approved treatment for dry eyes uses heat and massage on both the inner and outer eyelids to help unclog oil glands. Your tears need oil to help from evaporating, and one of the main culprits of dry eye is due to clogged oil glands.
Make Lifestyle Adjustments to Help Treat Dry Eye Disease
In addition to treatments for dry eyes, you should be mindful and try to make small lifestyle changes that will help manage and prevent the condition.
For example, try to limit the time you look at your computer and phone. This puts unnecessary stress on your eyes and can dry them out. If you work on a computer, take breaks to give your eyes a rest. The National Eye Institute recommends the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Also, ensure you’re drinking enough water and getting plenty of sleep. And if you find your eyes getting dry, apply a warm compress to your eyelids to help clear oil glands.
Dry eye doesn’t have to cripple you or your vision. It’s an uncomfortable condition, but one that can easily be managed and treated. If you suffer from the disease and want to learn more about how to treat dry eye and which treatment option is best for you, contact your healthcare provider today!