Tear film is complex! Comprised of mucus, water, minerals and oils, tear film in the healthy human eye should nourish structures on the front of the eye and keep our eyes comfortable.
An inadequate tear film will cause discomfort, such as a scratchy feeling or the sensation of a foreign body in the eye. Dry eyes can affect anyone at any time, but we are more susceptible during cooler and drier times of the year. Since these symptoms can overlap allergy symptoms, we might mistakenly think we are simply affected by allergy season, when in reality the problem is Dry Eye Syndrome.
With fall and winter upon us, perhaps it is time to evaluate your symptoms, especially if you are among the groups most likely to suffer from dry eyes. Middle-aged adults, women more than men, find themselves affected most often. If you have rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory joint disease, you may also find yourself at an increased risk. Patients who have had LASIK are more at risk. Smokers experience more dry eyes than non-smokers, regardless of age or gender.
What can you do if your dry eyes are bothersome? There are various modes of dry eye treatment that your doctor can use. Eyedrops remain the most common treatment and work well in mild cases. Your doctor will be happy to recommend high quality eyedrops which are over-the-counter. Their quality has evolved, and for many people, drops are the best and easiest solution. A prescription drop such as Restasis, which increases tear production, might be used. Your doctor can also insert punctal plugs, miniscule devices inserted to help the eye retain your natural tears and decrease moisture loss. He may also recommend an Omega-3 dietary supplement. These various treatments can be mixed and matched to the needs of the individual.
When dry eyes persist after exploring all of these options, a more aggressive treatment may be pursued, which will be discussed in a future article.