Do you know of someone who has gritty, sandy, irritated eyes, with fluctuating vision that gets worse as the day goes on? If this sounds familiar, then you or a loved one may be suffering from dry eyes—one of the most prevalent ocular conditions.
Dry eyes are ten times more common in women than men, and are more common following the onset of menopause. It can be made worse by taking hormone replacement therapy, as it is the male rather than female hormones that support tear production by the lacrimal gland above the upper lid. Patients with both dry eye and dry mouth may have a very severe form called Sjögren’s syndrome. Dry eye can also also be exacerbated by common medications, such as diuretics, antihistamines and anti-depressants.
At Pepose Vision Institute, we are involved in clinical research to better diagnose dry eye syndromes and monitor treatment. This includes evaluating new devices that measure the lipid layer of the tears and the tear osmolarity. The first step towards relief is always the correct diagnosis, as dry eye can mimic some of the signs of allergy or other conditions and be easily missed.
If you suffer from dry eyes, what can be done? There are 3 steps to therapy. The first is the use of artificial tear supplements and night time gels. There are differences in artificial tears, regarding their thickness, viscosity and components, and so do not give up if you have tried one product. The second step is a prescription drop called Restasis that actually increases tear production. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which can be supplemented with short time use of other topical medications.
However, one of the most immediate and effective treatment for dry eye is the one least utilized. Punctal plugs are microscopic (about the size of the tip of a ball point pen) and are molded to exactly fit into the tiny holes in the lids that drain away the tears. This is not where the tears come from, but rather how they drain away. The tears go down these 4 ducts, one in each lid, into the bony tissue and then to the back of our throat. We actually are drinking our tears all day long, which is why some people can taste their eye medicines! Punctal plugs can be painlessly placed in the office, not the operating room, with just the use of numbing drops. You do not feel the plugs and there is no maintenance required. They work instantly, just like putting a stopper in the drain when the faucet is dripping.
If you have chronically red, irritated eyes, with fluctuating vision and feel eye strain by the end of the day, please consider making an appointment with Pepose Vision Institute to have an evaluation for dry eyes and other conditions that could affect your sight. We are here to help you protect the most precious of our 5 senses.