Dry eye syndrome is a very common eye condition. In fact, Dr. Mark Cannon takes a special interest in patients who experience dryness because he has a mild case himself. Anyone can get Dry Eye Syndrome (DES), but it is most common in older patients and contact lens wearers. One recent report showed that 75% of patients over age 65 have dry eye. Lots of younger eyes can be dry as well, and contact lens patients of all ages are likely to have issues with dryness. Studies have shown that about 50% of contact lens patients report dryness during the day, compared to only 10-12% of glasses wearers. Even a case that is classified as “mild” dry eye by your eye doctor can cause big problems for patients. DES has a number of causes and several potential treatment options.
People suffering from dry eye syndrome may have a burning sensation or even mildly itchy eyes. They may complain of a gritty sensation, almost like having sand in the eyes. Other patients may simply say their eyes feel tired and irritated at the end of the day. Some patients with severe ocular dryness may feel sharp, stabbing pains in the eye periodically. Dry eye can cause intermittently blurry vision that changes with blinks. This intermittent blur is particularly common after reading or using the computer for long stretches of time. Speaking of computer use, long stretches staring at a screen is associated with a lower blink rate, and a resultant worsening the dryness of people’s eyes. For contact lens wearers, it can make contacts feel very uncomfortable and blurry, especially after long hours of wear. Other contact lens wearers report feeling dryness only when they take their lenses out. Some patients find that blinking helps, but this relief is typically short-lived.
There are a number of effective strategies for managing dry eye. Often a mild case can be managed with artificial tears a few times a day. Staying well hydrated certainly helps as well. Others need more focused therapies such as the prescription eye drops Xiidra or Restasis. If your eyes burn, blur up between blinks, or just feel dry sometimes, you will likely benefit from dry eye treatment. See your local eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) for an evaluation. The good news is the eye doctors at Cannon EyeCare have a number of tools and strategies to combat this problem. The key to success is having a clinician who will listen to the difficulties you’ve been experiencing, do a careful exam to determine the cause, and then apply an appropriate treatment strategy.
Sincerely, Dr. Mark J. Cannon, optometrist @ Cannon EyeCare (at Market Optical) in Seattle, Washington