Your eyes depend on tears to maintain their overall health and clear vision. Tears keep the surfaces of your eyes moist, remove debris, and protect your eyes from bacteria and other infections. When you have chronic dry eye, your eyes don’t produce enough tears to perform these tasks. You can also get chronic dry eye if you produce tears that don’t remain in your eyes long enough to protect it because they evaporate too quickly.
Chronic dry eye can make your eyes vulnerable to the effects of dust and other irritants that remain in your eyes. Symptoms include a gritty feeling in your eyes, light sensitivity, and blurry vision. If left untreated, chronic dry eye can result in pain, ulcers, and scars on your corneas. Chronic dry eye occurs more often among middle-aged and older people, and it affects women about twice as often as men.
If you’re experiencing chronic dry eye, identifying the cause of your condition is key to finding the right treatment. Optometrists Eugene Wolchuck, MD, and Stephen Wolchuk, MD, of Wolchuck Eye Associates in Jacksonville, Florida uses a wide range of diagnostic tools to identify the cause of your symptoms. With a comprehensive eye exam, Dr. Wolchuk can also determine whether allergies or other underlying medical conditions are contributing to your symptoms. Based on the cause of your chronic dry eye, Dr. Wolchuk will recommend treatments that can provide relief and protect your eyes from damage.
You don’t have to suffer from the discomfort of chronic dry eye. Read on to find out about proven treatments for dealing with this condition. Depending on the cause of your chronic dry eye, Dr. Wolchuk may advise one or more of these approaches.
Artificial tears, or lubricating eye drops, can relieve mild cases of chronic dry eye that result from temporary causes, such as computer use and reading, or environmental issues, such as air conditioning or heat.
Your tears include three layers: the outside oily layer, the middle watery layer, and the inner mucus layer. Together, the three layers make up your tear film. Artificial tears work by supplementing your natural tears with some of the same elements contained in your tears.
You can purchase many brands of artificial tears without a prescription. They’re available as eye drops, ointments, and gels.
Allergy eye drops
Allergy eye drops can relieve symptoms of chronic dry eye caused by eye allergies. Eye allergies can be triggered by smoke, mold, pollen, dust, chemicals, and other factors. Allergy eye drops exist as over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Allergy eye drops vary according to the symptoms they treat. Some may relieve redness and irritation, while others may treat itching or provide lubrication. If you have chronic dry eye related to allergies, Dr. Wolchuk may recommend oral antihistamines or decongestant eye drops, which constrict blood vessels to control redness. Treatments may also include rinses to flush out allergens or lubricants to soothe irritated eyes.
You may benefit from prescription medications for chronic dry eye if over-the-counter options don’t provide relief. Prescription medications are administered as pills or eye drops. Most work by reducing eyelid inflammation. Eyelid inflammation can prevent oil from mixing with your tear film. When your tear film doesn’t have adequate oil, your tears can evaporate too quickly.
You may also benefit from a daily prescription insert placed between your lower eyelid and your eyeball. The insert, which resembles a clear grain of rice, releases a lubricating solution as it slowly dissolves through the day.
Underlying health conditions
If you have an underlying health condition, you may improve or resolve your chronic dry eye symptoms by treating the issue. Some health issues that can interfere with normal tear production include:
- Eye allergies
- Rosacea, an inflammatory skin disease
- Blepharitis, an inflammatory eyelid disease
- Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, scleroderma, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Thyroid disorders
In some cases, medications used to treat high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, and other conditions, can cause chronic dry eye. The condition can also occur as a side effect of antihistamines, decongestants, and hormone replacement therapy. In these cases, you should consult your physician about switching to a medication that doesn’t interfere with normal tear production.
If you have chronic dry eye or want to see if you do, book an appointment online or over the phone with Wolchuk Eye Associates today.