Thursday, January 9, 2014

My eyes feel dry and itchy! Do I have allergies or dry eye???

Dry eye syndrome is tagged as being one of the most painful diseases a patient can experience within a lifetime.  This is alongside arthritis pain, irritable bowel pain and many other painful diseases of the body. Dry eye syndrome makes the top ten list of painful diseases to have as documented in recent history, therefore we need to start diagnosing and treating this disease better.  

Patients with dry eye syndrome experience a range of symptoms, the most common being itchiness, redness and a desire to excessively blink, which eventually leads to overall fatigue of the eyes. More severe symptoms include sharp pain, excessive pressure over the brow, increased light sensitivity, and finally blurred vision. Though most dry eye patients experience mild to moderate symptoms, the constant nature of such irritation makes this syndrome worth treating.

Dry eye is usually due to a deficiency or imbalance in tear production. The surface of the eye is very much like the skin; tear glands generate tears with just the right balance of water and oil. This perfect chemical fluid will lubricate the surface of the eye keeping the eye clear and fed. Tears carry a nutritional factor; hence it’s lack can eventually affect visual performance. Dry eye patients typically do not produce a well balanced tear layer, exposing the eye to the harshness of the external environment and causing starvation to certain portions of the eye surface. When the environments are harsher, ie. winter, the syndrome is exacerbated.  

A visit with an eye care professional will aid in determining the type of dry eye.  Knowing which fluids are off balance along with knowing the source will best determine the mode of treatment.  Too often patients assume the itchy eyes are allergy based, leading to the the use of allergy drops or Visine (refer to Visine blog to learn more about this product).  Both these drops will typically worsen the dry eye and create secondary problems.  Most times dietary suggestions are made and/or direct drops are prescribed to truly treat the culprit causing all these painful issues.  Lesson taught here is to visit with your optometrist once a year (more if needed) to really understand which treatment is best for your dry eyes.  

See and Be Seen! at Eyed LA Optometry in Brentwood, West Los Angeles