Living with dry eyes often leads to serious discomfort that may make it hard to work, drive or spend time communicating with your loved ones on social media. Dry eye syndrome affects approximately 16 million people in the United States, but it is widely believed that the condition is underdiagnosed. Many people try to get by by using eye drops to ease their symptoms, but you don’t have to live with discomfort. Learning more about dry eye syndrome helps you to know when you or your loved one might benefit from seeing an ophthalmologist that can get to the bottom of what is causing the dryness.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome?
A lack of moisture in your eyes is the most obvious symptom you’ll experience with this condition, but a drop in your tear production can also lead to other uncomfortable sensations. People with dry eye syndrome might also experience a scratchy or stinging feeling in their eyes. Redness and irritation are also common. If you aren’t able to keep your eyes moist, then you could also experience blurry vision that interferes with your ability to read and drive.
Who Is at Greater Risk of Developing the Condition?
Anyone can develop dry eyes at any age, but people who are over the age of 50 tend to be at higher risk. Women, people who wear contact lenses, and those who don’t get enough vitamin A in their diet may also be more likely to develop dry eyes. Out of all of the risk factors, certain autoimmune disorders stand out. For instance, dry eyes are a common symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome and lupus. If you know that you have an autoimmune disorder, then it is important to work with an eye specialist who knows how to care for people with associated conditions.
How Do Doctors Diagnose and Treat Dry Eye?
Your eye doctor can check for dry eye during your exam. Usually, they’ll use special drops to dilate your eyes so that they can fit all of the structures that impact your vision. They may check to see how much fluid your eyes produce along with how long the tears take to dry up. Your eye doctor should also check the eyelids and other structures around your eye to see if any deformities are interfering with tear production.
After a thorough exam, your ophthalmologist will be able to offer several different types of treatment. For mild cases of dry eye syndrome, you might be able to find relief from the eye drops that you use to stimulate tear production. In other cases, you might need intensive forms of care. For instance, surgery to correct eyelids that are too loose or to place plugs into your eye ducts that help the tears to stay in place. Lifestyle changes, such as staying out of the wind and limiting screen time, can also help.
Dry eyes don’t have to be a daily bother, and a qualified eye professional can help you to figure out why your body isn’t making enough tears to moisturize your eyes. Once you have your treatment plan, remember to follow it precisely. Relief tends to come quickly once you’ve got the suitable types of eye care strategies in place.