What is Dry Eye?
As you might expect, Dry eye is a very common cause of gritty, burning, or irritated eyes. What you may not know is that dry eye is also a very common cause of fluctuating vision that is sharp at times and blurry at other times. Dry eye is even a common cause of chronic tearing!
Dry eyes are common in people of all ages, but often worsen as we get older. Many things can cause this annoying and unhealthy condition, including dry climates, spending many hours in front of a computer or reading, or as a side effect of certain medication eye drops or pills (blood pressure medicines, chemotherapy drugs, antidepressants, allergy medicines, and hormonal pills are all common causes of dry eye). Certain auto-immune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus can cause severe dry eye, too.
Some people get dry eye due to diminished production of tears to coat their eyes, while some may make enough tears, but due to the tear composition being improper the tears evaporate too rapidly from the eye surface into the air. Others get evaporative dry eye either because their eyes don’t close all the way with each blink, or due to sleeping with their eyes slightly open. This continuous ‘exposure’ of the eye surface to the air causes the tears to rapidly evaporate.
Allergens and irritants like wind, dust, or heating/AC blowing in your face can also worsen dry eye.
Dry Eye Can Cause Vision To Fluctuate
Because the Cornea in the front of your eye is like your windshield to what you see, having dry eye can act like looking through many ‘dirt spots’ all over the windshield, blurring the vision. By blinking a lot or placing a tear drop in the eye, you have ‘spread washer fluid’ over the front of your eye, which now clears up your vision. This is how dry spots on the eye that come and go can actually cause fluctuations in your vision. Many people who see Dr. Goldstick thinking they need new glasses, actually just need their dry eyes improved to see better.
Constant Tearing Can Actually Be Caused By Dry Eye
Interestingly, some people who complain of tearing all the time, can actually have dry eyes! This is because in response to the dryness in the eye, the patient sends a signal to make more tears. While this should work in theory, unfortunately instead of making a light sprinkling of tears that coats the eye, the eye makes a flood of tears (like you make at a sad movie), that only roll down your cheek. These ‘crying’ tears don’t actually solve the dry eye, so the eye stays dry even as the person is constantly tearing!
Why Are Tears Important?
Unlike other parts of your body that get their nutrition to stay healthy and antibodies to fight infections from your blood, the clear front of the eye called the Cornea doesn’t have blood vessels in it. This is how the Cornea stays crystal clear for you to see through it, like a car’s windshield. As a result, the tears that coat the front of the eye aren’t just water, they contain nutrients and antibodies, too. Tears are therefore vital to the health of the cornea, and that’s why patients with dry eye are at risk of having eye health issues, such as infections.
How is Dry Eye Treated?
When Dry eye is suspected by Dr. Goldstick, they will examine you to determine just how severe you recondition is. If your dry eye is only mild, then Artificial Tear Drops periodically may be all that is needed. If the condition is more severe, then thicker gel drops may be recommended to lubricate your eyes.
For patients who require more than just tears and gels for their dry eye, Restasis and Punctal plugs can help greatly. RESTASIS is a prescription eye drop that isnt a lubricant, but when used twice daily allows your eyes to MAKE MORE OF THEIR OWN TEARS (like turning the spigot on higher to get more water in your sink). PUNCTAL PLUGS act like a STOPPER PLACED IN THE SINK DRAIN. These Plugs are easy and painless to install into your tear ducts, keeping more of the tears in your eyes from leaving.
In addition, Vitamin supplement pills containing Omega 3 and Omega 6 Fatty Acids are shown to help produce more tears.
If you think you may be suffering from Dry Eyes, Dr. Goldstick will go over the best treatments specifically for you.