Season to season, day to day…so many of us experience dry eye symptoms without realizing the cause. In fact, Dry Eye is a problem for an estimated 300 million people around the world. Most seek treatment by using over-the-counter eye drops but for those who don’t get relief could be experiencing an underlying cause that only an eye exam and eye doctor can properly diagnose.
Chronic dry eye is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren't able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Tears can be inadequate for MANY reasons. We debunked the top 5 myths about chronic dry eye below:
Myth 1: OTC eye drops that “get the red out” can help.
Fact: Not necessarily, as some of those over the counter (OTC) drops reduce tear production. It’s important to use lubricating or tear replacement drops or drops prescribed by your eye doctor.
Myth 2: Dry air causes chronic dry eye.
Fact: While low humidity and other environmental factors such as wind or heat can dry out eyes, it’s not the cause of chronic dry eye. When your eyes become dry and irritated, it’s usually due to lack of tears. Tear reduction could be caused by specific medicines, recent eye surgery, aging, wearing contact lenses. Additionally, women that experience hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills or menopause may have reduced tear production.
Myth 3: Watery eyes aren’t related to having dry eyes.
Fact: Tear over-secretion is usually caused by irritation or inflammation of the surface of the eye. This can occur for a number of reasons, including eyelash and eyelid problems or allergies. A dry eye problem can sometimes cause watery eyes, because the eye produces excess tears to combat the irritation and dryness.
Myth 4: Chronic dry eye won’t affect my vision.
Fact: Experiencing occasional dry eye is common. However for anyone experiencing ongoing (chronic) symptoms could affect their overall vision quality. Without a proper tear film, particles such as dust and pollen can adhere to the eye, which in turn may cause irritation and blurred vision. Chronic dry eye may increase the risk of eye infection and cause corneal scarring.
Myth 5: Chronic dry eye is a result from allergies.
Fact: Although some symptoms are similar, there are distinct differences between the two eye conditions. While eye allergies can also cause redness and tearing, the main symptom is itching. An ocular allergy is caused by sensitivity to a substance that is not usually harmful. When the allergen interacts with cells called mast cells, a substance called histamine is released which causes itching, redness, and swelling. Most allergies are due to environmental factors like pollen, cat dander, dust mites, etc. There are also more serious ocular allergies that require medical attention.
When to seek Medical Attention
Contact your eye doctor if you've had prolonged signs and symptoms of dry eyes, including red, irritated, tired or painful eyes. Your doctor can take steps to determine what's causing your dry eye symptoms or refer you to a specialist.
Shofner Vision Center can diagnose and provides effective treatment for dry eye disease.
“Many of our patients receive almost instant relief with semi-permanent and dissolvable tear duct plugs. Temporary or dissolvable punctal plugs usually last from a few days to as long as several months,” says Dr. Shofner. This treatment is performed at our office and patients do not experience any discomfort or downtime.