Dr. Lesage Answers Your Questions About Dry Eye
Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the spring and summer months?
A: It is true that dry eye symptoms tend to be more severe in the winter months. This is because our general environment is more dry in colder weather, which can cause our tears to evaporate more quickly and exacerbate symptoms. These trends can vary however, as some individuals may find that their symptoms are worse at different times throughout the year, such as in the spring due to seasonal allergies.
Q: When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms?
A: We always recommend a comprehensive eye exam for any individual experiencing dry eye, regardless of the severity of your symptoms. There are many factors that can contribute to dry eye and it’s important to determine exactly what is causing it, so that we can create a customized treatment plan that works for you.
Q: What is the examination like to determine whether someone is suffering from Dry Eye?
A: A dry eye examination usually starts with a slit lamp exam, which allows us to look at your ocular surface under very high magnification. We examine the quantity and quality of your tear film, determine the health and expressibility of the glands along your upper and lower eyelids, and check to ensure there is no build up of debris and bacteria in your eyelashes. We will often use topical fluorescein, which is a yellow-coloured dye and helps us determine where the dryness is occurring and allows us to look for patterns. We also have non-invasive machinery in our office to image your eyelid glands, and measure certain additional parameters that help in determining the cause and severity of your dry eye.
Q: I have a friend whose eyes are very watery. That isn’t Dry Eye, is it?
A: It is a common misconception that watery eyes and dry eyes are unrelated. Excessive tearing is actually a common symptom of dry eye. This is because when the front surface of your eyes becomes dry, your body may over-produce tears to compensate. However, there are many other possible causes for overly-watery eyes, so it’s important to book an eye exam to determine the exact cause and best treatment for you.
Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
A: There are many different types of treatment for dry eyes, including but not limited to:
- Artificial tears: these eye drops are meant to supplement your natural tear film. Preservative-free drops are generally recommended because they are more gentle on the ocular surface. There are many different dry eye drops available; it’s important to consult your optometrist about which option is best for you.
- Ocular gels and ointments: these are useful for patients with moderate to severe dry eye symptoms. Ocular gels and ointments do not drain from the tear film as quickly, and provide longer-lasting relief. However, these products can sometimes cause blurred vision, so it is best to use them at specific times during the day.
- Hot compresses: these are meant to improve the health of the meibomian glands, which are located in the upper and lower eyelids. These glands release an oil into the tear film, which improves the stability of your tears and prevents them from evaporating as quickly. We will often recommend a specialty eye mask that provides a prolonged, moist heat to keep your glands healthy and flowing properly.
- Eyelid hygiene: eyelid wipes or foaming cleansers are recommended for those who have a build up of debris and bacteria in their eyelashes. This debris can cause eyelid irritation and dryness of the ocular surface. Maintaining good eyelid and lash hygiene is important to keep your eyes more comfortable and prevent dry eye symptoms.
- Prescription eye drops: if we determine that your dry eye is caused by excessive inflammation, we will sometimes prescribe a short course of topical steroids, or more long-term immune-modulating drops such as Restasis.
- Many more: there are many treatment options available for dry eyes including omega-3 supplementation, punctal plugs, scleral contact lenses, LipiFlow, and more. Book an appointment with us to determine which options are best for your eyes.
Q: Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?
A: Yes, there are many different factors that can predispose an individual to having dry eyes. This includes but is not limited to:
- Medication use: certain medications can cause your body to produce less tears. This includes certain types of birth control, acne medications (such as Accutane), anti-allergy medications, and more.
- Prolonged screen use: research has shown that our natural blink rate decreases when looking at a screen. Frequent blinking is important to keep your tear film evenly spread over your ocular surface.
- Contact lens wear: soft contact lenses can create a barrier between the ocular surface and the natural tear film. This can lead to dry eye symptoms, especially for those whose contact lenses don’t fit properly and those who over-wear their lenses.
- Certain systemic conditions: there are many different systemic conditions that can influence ocular dryness including sjogren’s, rheumatoid arthritis and hyper-thyroidism.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
A: The following things can help avoid dry eye issues:
- Take frequent breaks from screen use: For those who use the computer for many hours of the day, we recommend the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look away from your screen for 20 seconds, at something at least 20 minutes away.
- Avoid dry environments: humidifiers can be used if your home or work environment is especially dry. If you use a fan or air conditioning, ensure your vents are not pointing directly towards your face. Smoking can also exacerbate dry eyes, so it is best to avoid it if possible.
- Book an annual or bi-annual comprehensive eye exam: many individuals have dry eyes even without showing symptoms. It’s important to treat the underlying cause of the dryness to prevent your symptoms from worsening and causing potential damage to your eyes. We’re here to help!