Senior Life: Tips for Healthy Living - Finding Dry Eye Relief
More Than Meets The Eye: Finding Dry Eye Relief
Dry eyes are one of the most common eye problems, affecting over 16 million Americans. Our tears are essential in keeping our eyes well-lubricated and in protecting our eyes from harmful irritants. Every blink results in the spread of tears across the surface of the eye. When the amount or quality of tear is not sufficient, dry eyes can occur. While dry eye symptoms are variable from person to person, common indicators of this condition include eye irritation, redness, fatigue, blurred vision, light sensitivity, watery eyes, stinging or burning sensation, difficulty keeping eyes open, and pain when opening eyes in the morning. Not only can dry eyes be uncomfortable, but they can also lead to permanent vision loss when left unmanaged.
In our state, wind is a constant factor contributing to dry eyes. Additionally, smoke, air conditioning, and dry air can lead to decreased moisture in our tear film. Tiredness and screen time can also contribute to dry eyes. Staring at your phone, laptop, or tablet for prolonged periods of time can cause eye strain, especially if you are not blinking often enough. Other factors that can increase risk of dry eyes include:
• Wearing contact lenses
• Age 50 years or older
• Females experiencing hormonal changes from menopause, birth control use, or pregnancy
• Vitamin D deficiency
• Eye or eyelid inflammation
• Taking medications that decrease tear production
• Antihistamines, especially diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) and loratadine (Claritin®)
• Tricyclic antidepressants
• Hormone replacement therapy and some oral contraceptives
• Certain blood pressure and heart medications, such as beta-blockers
• Acne medications, including Accutane®
• Parkinson's Disease medications
• Chemotherapy medications, like cyclophosphamide
• Certain medical conditions, like diabetes, thyroid disorders, and autoimmune conditions
• Meiobial gland dysfunction
• LASIK or other refractive eye surgery
While moderate to severe cases of dry eye may need to be treated with prescription medications, lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications can be sufficient for many people. Consider the following self-care options to alleviate symptoms:
- Do not overwear your contact lenses.
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors.
- Take conscious breaks from looking at a screen about every 20 minutes.
- Thoroughly remove makeup. Consider using an eyelid cleaner.
- Apply warm compresses to the eyes.
- Wear a silicone eye mask at night.
- Add moisture to the air in your house by running a humidifier.
- Drink more water! Staying hydrated can improve your eye comfort.
When it comes to finding an over-the-counter option for dry eye relief, artificial tears are the mainstay in providing eye lubrication.
- Consider using a preservative-free eye drop, especially if your eyes require multiple drops throughout the day. Preservatives extend the shelf life of the eye drop, but can lead to more irritation if you use them more than four times per day. Preservative-free eye drops often come in multiple single-use vials that need to be thrown away after using in order to prevent bacteria growth; however, many companies are beginning to make special multi-dose containers for preservative-free eye drops. Preservative-free eye drops are generally safe to use as often as needed throughout the day.
- Avoid selecting an eye drop that reduces redness, as these can lead to further irritation.
- Consider saving eye ointments for before bedtime. Because lubricating eye ointments are thickener than eye drops, they can provide longer lasting relief. They can also cause clouded vision temporarily, which could briefly impact daytime tasks. Gel drops, which are less thick than ointments, are also an intermediate option that are more moisturizing than regular eye drops.
Ask your local Lewis pharmacist for assistance in finding an over-the-counter product that is right for you.
Written by Jackie Thomas, Pharm.D, Lewis Drug Pharmacist
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