Have you noticed any redness, itchiness, or a burning sensation in your eyes? Does your vision seem to double or is it harder to focus on objects? Well, you may be one of thousands that are suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome.
Tears are essential for our eyes—they lubricate the eyes, wash out any external debris from the eyes, and contain enzymes that neutralize microorganisms on the eye; overall tears are a very vital part of healthy eyes. But when someone is suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome, their lacrimal component isn’t producing a substantial amount of tears, causing them to suffer from the various symptoms listed above.
Causes of Dry Eyes
There are many factors that cause dry eyes, from age to environmental conditions—there are a plethora of reasons. Those who already use contact lenses experience dry eyes more than those who don’t use contacts. Some medications can cause dry eyes, especially from blood pressure medications, anti-depressants, and birth control pills.
Yes, it may seem shocking birth control pills can cause dry eyes, but when looking at statistics it isn’t much of a surprise. Women tend to make up the majority of dry eye sufferers (62% of women vs. 44% of men) due to hormonal changes in the body, especially women experiencing menopause and those who are pregnant.
What Tests Measure Dry Eye Syndrome?
The Schirmer Test is one way that your eye doctor can test for Dry Eye Syndrome; a thin film of paper is placed under the lower eyelid, measuring how many tears your eyes produce. Colored dyes can also be placed in your eyes so your eye doctor can easily track the natural flow of your tears and any changes to the surface of your eyes that are caused by the lack of proper tear production. Your eye doctor can also examine your cornea and eyelids using magnification and bright lights, and also perform an external examination to measure blink dynamics along with eyelid structure.
At OCLI, we are also now offering the latest diagnostic to diagnose and monitor dry eye, the Tear Lab Osmolarity Test. Tear osmolarity has been shown to have the best predictive value for diagnosing Dry Eye Disease of any single test. TearLab’s sophisticated lab on a chip technology tests a tiny tear sample to measure Osmolarity, or the salt content in the tears. We will test both eyes, and will take the highest number of the two tests, to generate Your Osmolarity Number. Your Osmolarity Number gives our doctors a meaningful measure of the health and stability of the protective tear film that covers the surface of your eyes. The number generated correlates with the severity of the disease. What’s Your Number?
Digital Eye Strain
Digital Eye Strain (also known as computer vision syndrome) is the newest cause of dry eyes. Since most Americans work office jobs and use computers for their work, plus use smart phones for staying connected, it isn’t surprising that digital eye strain is becoming more common. The symptoms from digital eye strain are very similar to dry eyes, but with an addition of headaches plus pain in the neck and shoulders.
Improper lighting (light facing directly onto the screen and fluorescent lights) and glare from the computer screen, viewing distances (being too close to the monitor), improper posture, less blinking, and vision problems that haven’t been properly corrected are all factors for Digital Eye Strain.
Those already suffering from astigmatism, farsightedness, and improper eye coordination are at a higher risk of developing digital eye strain. Like with dry eyes, contact lens wearers seem to suffer from Digital Eye Strain more than those who don’t wear contacts.
How is Digital Eye Strain Diagnosed?
Your eye doctor can diagnose digital eye strain by performing a refraction test, testing your eyes for refractive errors so they can prescribe a proper lens prescription. They will also want to assess how well your eyes work and move together, plus how well they can focus; ultimately they will want to see how much your vision will be affected so they will perform visual acuity measurements. Eye drops may also be used to examine how well your eyes see under normal conditions.
One thing that will greatly determine if you suffer from digital eye strain is by telling your doctor how much you use a computer and/or smart phone.
How can Dry Eye Syndrome and Digital Eye Strain Be Treated?
In most cases many use artificial tears or over-the-counter eye drops to ease the symptoms that accompany these eye-related problems. When purchasing eye drops make sure to check the label on the bottle—bottles that are recommended to decrease redness will help your eyes appear whiter, but the formula in that bottle is just to decrease redness, it will only provide temporary moisture. Instead, grab a bottle that is marked as lubricating eye drops. Your eye doctor may prescribe eye drops for you instead (Restasis is commonly used among those with Dry Eye Syndrome).
We also believe strongly in the 20/20 20 Rule: Every 20 minutes that you are working on your device, look away to a distance 20 feet away for 20 seconds!
If you happen to wear contact lenses, try to wear them less often; if you suffer from Digital Eye Strain consider investing in a pair of computer glasses that are tailored specifically for computer usage, blocking out blue light (these are only to be used for computers, they are not regular eye glasses).
For those looking for a dry eye cure, punctal occlusion is a procedure you may want to consider. Small silicone plugs block the tear ducts which will keep your natural tears in your eyes for longer. Mention somewhere in this piece how macular degeneration and dry eye are related.
Remembering to blink regularly, turning down the brightness on the computer screen (from bright white to soft gray), adjusting your monitor to below eye-level, increasing text size, and taking breaks from digital devices and computers are ways to help relieve Digital Eye Strain.
MiboThermoflo is the newest treatment for Digital Eye Strain. Using a specialized gel for massaging, MiboThermoflo applies controlled heat to the outer corners of the eyelids. As the heat is absorbed into the eyelid’s tissue, it will help to break down oils in the tear glands.
Our New Dry Eye Center
If you’re suffering from dry eyes that are caused by Dry Eye Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain, we are proud to announce that with our recent Accredited Dry Eye Center featuring the TearLab Osmolarity System as well as the newest in chronic dry eye treatment, we can help resolve your dry eye issues. Instead of seeking out Dry Eye specialists in New York City, come to our Dry Eye Center located in East Hanover.
Don’t hesitate; make an appointment today with our Dry Eye Center.