There is a new epidemic that is running rampant across the United States. Fortunately it is not contagious and not life threatening like the Swine Flu, but there is a tremendous cost in terms of loss of quality of life and vision. This epidemic is often referred to as Dry Eye Syndrome and effects millions of people with symptoms ranging from mild, vague discomfort to completely disabling pain and chronic blurred eyesight.The Dry Rye Epidemic has multiple causes.
- Time spent by adults on computers and youth on video games dramatically lowers the normal blink rate and causes the eyes to dry out faster than normal.
- Historically, before mass consumption of processed foods, for every unit of omega-3 fat we consumed in our diet we ate 1 to 4 units of omega 6. Today that ratio has shifted to 20-30 times more omega 6 fats in our diets than omega-3. This has caused an outbreak of disease of the eyelid margins and resultant poor tear film quality.
- As the population has aged there has been an increase due to normal, age related decreases in tear production.
- The large increase in prescription medication use has resulted in numerous drugs being used that contribute to dry eyes. Medications for blood pressure, depression, allergies, pain, and many other conditions can have drying effects.
- Millions of women treated with hormonal replacement therapy in the past may have increased the dry eye epidemic.
- With the shift to industrialized society, working indoors the patterns of airflow and humidity have been altered and effect the incidence of dry eyes.
- The long term shift away from water consumption towards caffeinated beverages and colas aggravates dry eyes in some individuals.
- Even the increase in obesity leads to low grade inflammation in the body which can decrease tear production.
- Many eyedrops, prescription and over the counter, can cause or aggravate dry eyes to the point that some patients discontinue their treatment and suffer sight loss.
- Perhaps the worse culprit in the dry eye epidemic is LASIK eye surgery. The nerves that drive the eyes to blink are cut by the surgery and dryness is a frequent complaint after surgery. The dryness sometimes persists and requires long term treatment.
Fortunately we have many options today, including prescription eye medications, new contact lens materials, glaucoma eye drops designed for dry eyes, nutritional supplements, and even micro-plugs implants for the tear ducts to help increase the basal level of moisture. If you feel you have symptoms of dry eyes please call and request an appointment for a dry eye evaluation. Your vision insurance service plan may provide coverage for dry eye treatment.
Symptoms could be any of the following:
- Burning or stinging if the eyes
- Eyes that intermittently water excessivley
- Eye that feel griity at times
- Vision that blurs up for brief periods of time
- Pink or red eyes
- Vision discomfort that gets worse as the day progresses
- Developing intolerance to contact lenses
- An increase in the normal level of itchy eye allergies
- Frequent styes and eye infections