It could happen after spending hours on the computer or after being outside in dry, hot windy weather. You might have noticed it when you were at a high altitude or being exposed to cigarette smoke: Dry, irritated eyes.
Dry eye syndrome is more than just annoying. It’s important to prevent your eyes from drying out because this dryness can cause lasting irritation or, when it’s chronic, scarring. In fact, it’s a medical condition that should be treated promptly before it can cause lasting damage.
Dry Eye Causes
Ideally, your eye is constantly producing fluids that keep your eye moisturized and lubricated. Coating your eye at any moment, there are actually three layers. The innermost layer is formed of mucus covering the cornea. The middle layer is mostly water with a little salt and protein. This layer supplies the cornea with important nutrients. The outer layer is an oily film that seals in and slows down evaporation of the watery layer.
There are several glands producing these fluids that nourish, protect and clean the eyes. As we age, this fluid production tends to slow down. Contact lenses, certain medications, some diseases and, of course, environmental factors also increase a person’s chances of developing dry eye syndrome.
Dry Eye Symptoms
- Itchy or burning eyes
- Irritation and redness
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty driving at night
- Blurred vision that gets better after you blink
- Watery eyes
- Eye fatigue, especially after watching television, reading or looking at a computer screen
Benefits of Dry Eye Treatment
Your tear film serves an essential purpose, keeping your eyes healthy by protecting the surface and washing away germs, dust, dirt and other irritants. Healthy eyes need proper lubrication from tears to avoid inflammation, corneal abrasions (scratch) and corneal ulcers (sores). Eye inflammation can lead to dry eyes, but dry eye syndrome can cause more inflammation, creating a vicious cycle without treatment.
Don’t ignore symptoms of dry eye syndrome, as the disease is more than a nuisance. Inadequate tear quality or production can be a warning sign of a larger health problem. Long-term dry eye syndrome can impact your quality of life, affecting your ability to drive safely and read clearly. If the condition leads to infection, abrasions or ulcers, you could even suffer vision loss.
Treating dry eyes can restore your ocular health and avoid many of these concerns.
Cost of Dry Eye Treatment
The price of your dry eye treatment varies based on the treatment and the severity of your dry eye syndrome. Early diagnosis and treatment may be more affordable than waiting until the dryness causes an eye injury or severe infection, which are costlier to treat. A 2011 analysis found the average cost of dry eye treatment was $783, but insurance may cover some of the expenses.
Our Largo office offers financing options so you can improve your symptoms and manage dry eye disease with affordable payments. Dry eye treatment is also eligible for FSA and HSA contributions.
How to Prevent Dry Eyes
There are some factors you can’t control when it comes to dry eye syndrome. Your age, gender, medications you take, health conditions and other aspects may make you more likely to suffer from poor tear production or quality. There are some changes you can make to your everyday lifestyle that may reduce your dry eye symptoms, including:
Avoid Blowing Air
Direct sources of blowing air away from your eyes and face to prevent the airflow from drying out your eyes, such as space heaters, fans and vents in the vehicle.
While Florida is quite humid already, indoor heating and cooling systems may reduce the humidity in the air. People with dry eye syndrome can benefit from adding moisture to the air to improve symptoms.
Wearing sunglasses or eyewear that wraps around your face can stop environmental irritants from getting into your eyes and worsening symptoms. Make sure your eyewear includes UVA and UVB protectants to protect your vision too.
Take Frequent Eye Breaks
Long tasks requiring looking at printed text or screens can cause you to blink less frequently and worsen dry eye symptoms. If you work a computer job, set a timer for 20 minutes and look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds when it goes off. This 20-20-20 rule can prevent dry eyes and digital eye strain. Place the computer screen below eye level to further preserve your tear film.
Stay Away from Smoke
Being exposed to smoke and smoking yourself can lead to dry eye symptoms. Stay away from smoke completely to prevent dry eyes and improve your overall health.
Drink Plenty of Water
Your eyes are affected by dehydration, just like the rest of your body. Make sure you drink enough water every day to prevent or alleviate dry eyes and consider using reminders or timers to help you remember to refill and drink your glass.
Dry Eye Treatment
If you continue to be troubled by irritated, dry eyes, see your eye doctor promptly. Untreated, dry eyes can cause eye infections, abrasions on the surface of your eyes or even corneal ulcers.
Occasional dry eyes can be treated with artificial tears. We can recommend either over-the-counter or prescription eyedrops chosen specifically for your eyes and lifestyle.
There are tiny drainage holes that allow tears to flow into the nasal passages. For some patients, we might recommend blocking these drainage holes so moisture stays in the eyes longer.
Good at-home practices include directing heating and air conditioning flows away from the face, wearing glasses or sunglasses that keep wind from hitting the eyes, taking frequent computer or television breaks, and keeping the eyes clean.
In the Tampa Bay area, we can help you determine the exact cause of dry eyes and return you to comfort. Please consult with us by calling 727-585-2200 to schedule a consultation without delay.