Question: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the warmer spring and summer months?
Dr. Eckard: Dry eye syndrome can affect people all throughout the year, but many patients experience more problems with this during the winter months due to colder temperatures, decreased humidity and the use of indoor fireplaces and heaters.
Question: When should a person come in to see their eye care professional for Dry Eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of this problem yourself?
Dr. Eckard: While it is fine to use other the counter artificial tears to treat dry eye symptoms, it is always best to be seen by an eye care professional to evaluate and identify the best course of treatment and to make sure that dryness is actually the cause of the irritation or discomfort.
Question: What is the examination like to determine whether someone is suffering from Dry Eyes?
Dr. Eckard: Eye care professionals use varying methods of determining if a patient has dry eyes and to what level their dryness is at. This may be simply looking at the patient at the microscope (slit lamp) or using gentle dyes such as sodium fluorescein, rose bengal or lissamine green dyes that determine the location and severity of the dryness. Other dry testing includes the use of Tear Lab Osmolarity and Schirmer tear strip evalution.
Question: I have a friend in whose eyes are frequently overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?
Dr. Eckard: Sometimes the eyes will run water when they are dry. The nerve relays from the cornea tell the brain that the eye is dry and the brain then overproduces a reflex tearing that tends to spill over the lids and not stay on the surface of the eye. Watery eyes can also be a sign of allergy, infection or something foreign in the eye. It is best to be seen by an eye care professional to determine what the cause is.
Question: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
Dr. Eckard: Typical treatments for dry eyes include, but are not limited to artificial tears and lubricant ointment/gels, prescription drops such as Restasis and Xiidra, punctal occlusion (blocking of the drainage ducks on the lids), meibomian gland expression and omega 3 supplements. Many times it takes a combination of the above therapies.
Question: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?
Dr. Eckard: Yes. Women tend to present with more dry eye symptoms along with contact lens wearers. People in dry, dusty outdoor environments are also more likely to present with these symptoms. Many patients who use chronic blood pressure medications, anti-depressants and allergy medications are at more risk for the dry eye too. Dry eye is often seen more often in sleep apnea patients with the use of CPAP devices.
Question: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
Dr. Eckard: I would recommend a diet rich in Omega 3 fatty acids or supplements along with frequent breaks from computer/digital screen exposure. If a patient can also increase the humidity slightly in their homes and turn air vents in the car away from them directly, this will help minimize some of the dry eye risks. If a medication with a dry eye side effect can be avoided, then that is beneficial as well. All of this is best discussed with an eye care professional.
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