Dry eye is a condition that occurs when one’s eyes aren’t lubricated properly. This can happen for a variety of reasons and dry eye treatment depends on the underlying cause. The condition is extremely widespread. For example, about 4.88 million people in the US alone are diagnosed with it. However, it’s estimated that over 90 million of Americans actually suffer from some form of it. If left untreated, dry eye syndrome can lead to corneal damage and permanent vision loss. Therefore, it’s imperative to start treatment in the early stages.
Dry Eye Treatment: Connection to the Causes
The majority of dry eye treatments are symptomatic. Therefore, for the condition to be cured, one must resolve the problem that’s causing it.
Most common causes of dry eye are:
- Long periods of screen time.
The reason why dry eye is now known as computer vision syndrome is that time spent staring at screens is its main cause. An average adult in developed countries spends about 9 hours a day looking at digital screens. At this time, the frequency of blinking goes down, which results in the development of dry eye.
- Medical conditions.
Dry eye is most often caused by autoimmune diseases (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, etc.), rosacea, and blepharitis. Blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) in particular, is a common cause. At the moment, medics do not know which condition actually causes the other. Therefore, their treatment methods must be combined to achieve positive progress.
- A variety of drugs have dry eye as a side effect. The most common ‘offenders’ are antihistamines, hormonal pills, antidepressants, and decongestants.
- Toxic environments are hazardous to the entire eye and its surrounding glands. Windy, smoky, and dry environments cause dry eye because tears evaporate too fast there.
- Contact lenses.
As wearing contact lenses prevents the eye from ‘breathing’ naturally, the tear function disruption is unavoidable. That’s why some type of topical dry eye treatment is a must-have part of any wearer’s kit.
Dry Eye Treatment and Prevention Tips
Depending on the underlying cause of the condition, the most effective treatments for dry eye syndrome are:
- Topical medications.
Artificial tears, as well as gels and ointments that moisturize and ‘oil’ the eye are suitable treatments for mild dry eye. They provide effective relief for the annoying symptoms (dryness, ache, grittiness) and restore the patient’s comfort. In some cases, like with people wearing contact lenses, these treatments are the only effective solution. Using them regularly is essential to prevent dry eye from progressing to more dangerous stages.
- Lifestyle and environment changes.
If reducing the amount of screen time or working environment is impossible, the patient must minimize the damage. For screen time issues this means adopting the 20/20 rule. It entails making a 20-second break every 20 minutes. Rapid blinking during these breaks is greatly encouraged. When working in hazardous environments, people must wear protective gear. For windy and dry places, wearing glasses that wrap around the head might suffice. However, goggles are always the better option.
In both cases, using topical treatments for alleviating dry eye symptoms is a must.
- Prescription meds and surgeries.
In severe cases, your doctor might need to employ more drastic measures for dry eye treatment. Drugs, like lifitegrast and cyclosporine, as well as corticosteroid eye drops are prescribed depending on the situation. Surgical options include plugging tear ducts with silicone or cauterizing them completely.
Dry Eye Treatment: Conclusion
Dry eye syndrome is spreading so fast, it has become a major health concern worldwide. Although often overlooked in its early stages, when allowed to progress it can cause irreparable damage to the eyes. Timely treatment and prevention are essential for avoiding the future of sight-impaired adults becoming the majority in a few generations.