Treating Dry Eye Syndrome has been a long-time passion of mine. I have always seen how this affects the quality of one's life and their ability to do certain activities such as computer work, reading, and driving.
As I get older, I have developed more severe dry eyes. I've experienced how dryness worsens with hormone changes, lack of sleep, changes in the weather, and after hours of working on my laptop late at night.
If I keep up on my dry eye drops and take my fish oil supplements, my dry eyes is manageable. If I slack on my treatment (yes, even eye doctors forget their drops!) then my eyes become red, irritated, fatigued, and my vision fluctuates.
In my experience dry eyes presents in the following stages:
Most of us experience this at some point in our lives. Possible causes of intermittent dryness:
- Lack of sleep/interrupted sleep
- Extensive near work/computer work or long drives
- Wind/air flow
- Contact lenses
AVOID antihistamine drops and "get the red out" drops such as Visine or Clear Eyes.
NEW ONSET CHRONIC DRY EYE SYNDROME
In the early stages of dry eye syndrome, a sudden decrease in tear production causes significant discomfort. The cornea (front surface of the eyes) has more nerves per unit area than any other part of the body. Possible symptoms:
- burning/shooting pain/irritation/itching
- "feeling like something is in the eye"
- difficulty keeping the eyes open
- blurry/fluctuating vision
- red/watery eyes
- mild crusting in the morning
There are a lot of potential causes of dry eye syndrome. Whatever the cause, if the eyes suddenly become dry, the symptoms can be significant.
WELL MANAGED CHRONIC DRY EYE SYNDROME
When the right treatment plan is found and followed on a daily basis, the symptoms become less frequent and less severe. This stage, the eyes can still get dry, but quality of life is not affected.
Often patients think they only need to be on the treatment until their eyes get better.
DRY EYE SYNDROME IS A CHRONIC CONDITION
LATE STAGE "ASYMPTOMATIC" DRY EYE SYNDROME
This stage is the most dangerous. The corneal nerves can become damaged and desensitized over the years. Patients begin to think their eyes are not dry anymore since they don't feel the symptoms of burning and irritation and they often stop using their drops.
If they do not keep up with regular medical eye exams to evaluate their dry eyes, they won't know that their eyes are still dry.
At this stage, patients present with the following symptoms:
- blurry/decreased/fluctuating vision
- feeling like glasses aren't strong enough
- unable to read for very long
- tired/fatigued eyes
- poor night vision/glare/halos around lights
- light sensitivity (photophobia)
Obviously, this stage is not truly symptom free. But patients rarely associate these symptoms with dry eyes. Treatment is necessary to improve vision and reduce the risk of long term vision loss.