Why dry January doesn’t end on the 31st for over 5 million over 45s in the UK
Research suggests that circa 20% of the UK population suffer from debilitating dry eye syndrome, with that number increasing to over 60% for those aged over 65.
Dry eye, is a chronic(long-term) condition. A syndrome known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common eye complaint that occurs when the eye doesn’t produce enough tears, or the tears that they do produce evaporate too quickly resulting in the eyes drying out and becoming red, swollen, fatigued and irritated, with the patient occasionally suffering blurred vision.
Strangely, some sufferers of dry eye may experience episodes of the eye watering excessively. This is the eyes way of attempting to combat the episode of dry eye, and although in theory watery eyes should help alleviate the condition, the tears the eye is producing will likely not contain the right lubricants to help.
There are any number of reasons why someone may be afflicted by dry eye, from pregnancy to their central heating. Whilst often a single cause for the condition is rarely found in a patient, a number of causes can be discussed with your eye health professional.
Common causes of dry eye can include:
- Increase in age
- Being in a hot or windy climate
- Wearing contact lenses
- Other eye conditions such as blepharitis
- Autoimmune disorders
- Side effects of some medications including antihistamines, antidepressants, beta-blockers and diaretics
- Hormonal changes in women such as during the menopause, pregnancy or whilst using the contraceptive pill
- Not blinking enough, perhaps due to excessive screen time
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Whilst there are a range of medications that can help alleviate the symptoms of dry eye, there are also a number of lifestyle changes you can make which should help prevent the condition or reduce its impact:
- Simply keeping your eyes clean and free from dusty, smoky or windy environments is one of the best ways to help prevent the onset of dry eye.
- If you smoke, stop! If you don’t want to stop, then smoking in an open area and avoiding smoky environments will help.
- If possible, avoid using eye make-up. If you do continue to wear make-up, then ensure its fully removed before going to bed.
- Ensure that if you use a PC at work or home, it is correctly set-up to help to minimise eye strain and always remember to give your eyes a break from the screen every hour.
- A humidifier or cool mist device can help reduce symptoms by moistening the environment.
- Keep your eyes clean
- Use a warm compress on both eyes with a clean flannel soaked in cooled boiled water or you can speak with your optometrist in getting an eyebag.
- Massage the eyelids by rolling your little finger or a cotton bud in a circular motion on your closed eye to help push oils out of the glands.
- Keep your eyelids clean with cotton wool soaked in a bowl of boiling water (cooled to room temperature) with a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda added. Alternatively, you can purchase lid wipes from your pharmacist.
- Eat a diet high in omega-3 (fish, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, soya products and green leafy vegetables)
Most cases of dry eye tend to be long-term and will require ongoing treatment. If your dry eye is severe, persistent, or you are finding living with dry eye is negatively impacting your life you can visit an eye health specialist to help manage the condition through the prescription of eye drops, medication or, where necessary, surgery.
The exact treatment for dry eye will depend on what is causing the condition, whether that is a decrease in tear production, tears that evaporate too rapidly or another underlying condition.
Mild cases of dry eye can usually be treated through the use of eye drops or ointments, known as artificial tears. Whilst these drops may help alleviate the symptoms, they don’t contain the anti-bodies, vitamins and nutrients found in normal tears.
The underlying problem with long-term dry eye syndrome is inflammation in and around the eye. Anti-inflammatory treatments can be prescribed by an ophthalmologist. This group of treatment should only be used if you’re being reviewed by an ophthalmologist at an eye clinic. You shouldn’t use these treatments if you have no follow-up at an eye clinic.
Regular review is essential in managing the condition, and is available with the NHS or privately, be that self-funding through plans such as the eCare Medical Eye Service, or through Private Medical Insurance where policies permit the on-going management of chronic disease.
If you suffer from dry eye and would like to be seen privately at one of our Self-pay eCare Medical Eye Clinics, you can call our patient services team on 0203 780 7860. We offer monthly payment plans to allow you to spread the cost of managing your on-going medical eye care, or you are able to pay as and when you visit the centre for assessment with one of our eCare ophthalmologists.