Did you know that July is Dry Eye Awareness Month? You may not have even heard about dry eye before, at least not as a medical condition. Not only is dry eye a real condition, but it’s also extremely common and affects 30 million people a year in the US.
So what exactly is dry eye? Simply put, dry eye happens when your body doesn’t produce enough water in your tears to keep your eyes lubricated. This may sound minor, but a lack of proper lubrication in the eye can lead to inflammation, soreness, and even infection. Dry eye is a chronic condition for many people. Let’s learn just a few more surprising facts about chronic dry eye.
Dry Eye Can Happen If You Make A Normal Amount Of Tears
While dry eye is caused when your tears aren’t keeping your eyes well hydrated, this doesn’t necessarily mean your eyes aren’t making enough tears. In fact, the most common form of chronic dry eye is known as dry eye syndrome (also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS). Dry eye syndrome is caused by not having enough water in your individual tears. The eye makes a normal amount of tears, but the tears contain more mucus and oil than water, making them less hydrating.
It Affects Women More Than Men
There are several factors that determine the possibility of being diagnosed with chronic dry eye. It happens more frequently in older patients than younger ones and also tends to affect people who suffer from other chronic conditions like lupus and diabetes. Chronic dry eye is more common in women than men— this is because during pregnancy or menopause, hormonal changes occur that affect body chemistry, as well as vision changes. These hormonal changes can also be triggered by birth control pills, so chronic dry eye can affect women of all ages.
Chronic Dry Eye Can Be Treated With Surgery
In more severe cases of dry eye, there is a surgery available that blocks the tear ducts. The procedure helps tears stay in the eyes longer to make up for a lack of hydration in the tears. It can also help the eyes produce more tears. This surgery is only used in cases where the patient does not respond to other simple treatments, like artificial tears and eye drops that increase tear production.
There Are Ways To Manage Symptoms Without Eye Drops Or Surgery
While getting diagnosed and treated for chronic dry eye are important first steps to take, there are also ways to help your dry eye from getting worse and affecting your everyday life. The best way to do this is to keep your eyes in good health by practicing smart habits— always wear sunglasses when it’s sunny out. Make sure to stay hydrated— when your body is dehydrated, so are your eyes, and this can affect your tears as well! Be sure to drink plenty of water. There are also nutritional supplements you can take that may help with your symptoms— ask your doctor about the best options for you!
Want to know more about chronic dry eye? Think you might have it? Contact New England Eye Center today to schedule an appointment at one of our locations!