Dry eye is common and easily treated

Written by Dr. Seema Capoor, associate professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the UK College of Medicine.

Dr. Seema Capoor

Dr. Seema Capoor

It’s not uncommon for your eyes to become dry and uncomfortable. Factors like irritants in the environment, age, gender, certain medications or medical conditions can leave your eyes feeling gritty, itchy or irritated.

Tears are necessary for healthy eyes and clear vision. Dry eye syndrome, or DES, is a condition where the eye does not produce enough tears to keep the eyes well hydrated. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, but the good news is it’s usually easily treated.

Dry eye can be attributed to a number of factors, such as antihistamine or diuretic use, cigarette smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, and environmental factors such as air drafts and low-humidity. DES can be classified as mild, moderate or severe. In the majority of patients, the condition is not sight-threatening and is characterized by troublesome symptoms of irritation, redness and intermittently blurred vision. If these symptoms are persistent, you should see your ophthalmologist, who can easily diagnose the condition with a simple external examination of the eye lids and cornea

The primary approaches used to manage and treat dry eyes include adding tears, conserving tears, increasing tear production, and treating the inflammation of the eyelids or eye surface that contributes to the dry eyes. Mild cases can be treated with artificial tears, emulsions, gels and ointments.

Moderate cases of DES can be treated with anti-inflammatory therapies such as Restasis, and topical steroids may be considered. Use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements has been reported to be beneficial.

Oral medications such as immunosuppressives are sometimes prescribed when DES is more severe. Also, humidifying ambient air and avoiding air drafts by using shields and by changing the characteristics of airflow at work, at home, and in the car may be helpful.

Measures such as lowering the computer screen to below eye level to prevent your eyes from opening too wide, scheduling regular breaks during the work day, and increasing blink frequency may decrease the discomfort associated with computer and reading activities.

Patients with severe DES are at greater risk for contact lens intolerance and should be cautioned that refractive surgery, particularly LASIK, may worsen their dry eye condition.

Next steps:

  • Dry eyes aren’t just annoyance, they’re a real medical issue. Learn more dry eyes.
  • We provide comprehensive eye care at a number of locations across Kentucky. Find out more UK Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences.