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Dry Eye Syndrome Q&A with Dr. Smiley

Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the warmer spring and summer months?

Dr. Smiley: For some patients, winter months exacerbate dry eye symptoms because of the lack of moisture in the air as well as dust and debris recirculating in the house due to the heating system. Summer months are warmer and provide more moisture in the air. However, dry eye symptoms can be worse if a patient suffers from allergies which are typical in warmer months like Spring.

Q: When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of this problem yourself?

Dr. Smiley: We recommend that with any symptoms of dryness, burning, grittiness, blurred vision, redness, or irritation, you should consult your Optometrist.

Q: What is the examination like to determine whether someone is suffering from Dry Eyes?

Dr. Smiley: In order to determine if a patient has dry eye disease, their Optometrist will assess their ocular surface with a microscope looking for areas of the eye where dryness has damaged tissue. Optometrists will also assess the tear quality, volume, and distortion as well as the drainage system of the eye. Optometrists also have special imaging that they can use to look at the health of the tear-producing glands of the eyes.

Q: I have a friend in whose eyes are frequently overly watery. That isn’t Dry Eye, is it?

Dr. Smiley: Frequent tearing or watering of the eyes is actually a common symptom of dry eye disease. The tear film is composed of several layers and the outmost layer can be lacking in patients with frequent tearing. The outermost tear layer is called the lipid layer and is made up of oils that hold the aqueous or watery portion of the tears on the surface. With a thin or absent lipid layer, tears are not properly adhered to the ocular surface and can frequently run off and produce frequent tearing.

Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?

Dr. Smiley: Dry eye disease is diagnosed by your Optometrist. There are several forms of dry eye disease, therefore, your Optometrist will select the most appropriate treatment for your dry eye. Common treatments are artificial tears, warm compresses, and lid scrubs.

Q: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Dr. Smiley: Yes. Patients taking some high blood pressure medications, oral antihistamines, those with autoimmune disease or hormonal changes are more prone to having symptoms of dry eye disease. However, dry eye can also affect patients that are on the computer or digital devices for many hours throughout the day as well as those exposed to certain chemicals or debris in their workplace.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?

Dr. Smiley: If a patient is frequently on the computer, we recommend that they take breaks to relax and refocus their eyes. Always wear sun protection and safety glasses when outside to prevent ocular sensitivity or possible debris entering the eye causing irritation. Avoid rubbing your eyes as that can cause damage over time as well.