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Dry Eye Syndrome

By Dr. John Titak, Lake Oconee Eye Care

Girl in gardenSpring is in the air — and so is the pollen that accompanies its arrival. As spring allergy season starts, approximately twenty percent of the population will experience symptoms that affect their eyes; redness, swelling, and itchiness can all point to ocular allergy responses. However, itching can be the first sign of dryness as well. Dry eye syndrome affects upwards of fifteen percent of the population, and distinguishing the differences between allergies and dry eye syndrome can be challenging. Prescribing the correct treatment plan depends on a proper diagnosis.

Seasonal eye allergies are triggered by exposure to pollens and other common allergy triggers, including pet dander, dust, make-up and other chemicals. It is common to seek relief for these symptoms at the pharmacy with over-the-counter allergy drops. Unfortunately, many common over-the-counter products only mask the symptoms for a temporary period of time and can actually cause dryness or added irritation. In some allergy cases, artificial tears and cool compresses are a more appropriate treatment. Oral antihistamines and ocular antihistamines are also readily available without a prescription. Ocular steroids may also be an appropriate treatment in certain cases to reduce irritation, but careful monitoring during their use is required to prevent acute cases of glaucoma, as well as the formation of steroid-induced cataracts. A complete eye evaluation is the only way to be certain that a proper treatment plan is formulated for you. 

Dry eye syndrome can be influenced by several factors. Auto-immune issues and hormonal changes are known contributors. Our ever-expanding hours of digital device use leads to a decrease in blink rate, which can lead to dry eye syndrome. Evaluation includes a check of tear break-up time, which measures the amount of time the tears are able to maintain contact with the entire surface of the eye before evaporation takes place. Areas of the eye which have constant evaporative stress can lead to tiny erosions of the tissue; this, in turn, can lead to vision fluctuations throughout the day.  

A careful examination of the eyelid structure is also conducted during a dry eye evaluation. Meibomian glands are located along the edges of the eyelid, near the eyelashes; they secrete oils that prevent evaporation of the tear film. The majority of dry eye issues can be traced to rapid tear film evaporation. As these factors advance an inflammatory response can take hold, increasing the likelihood of a chronic condition. 

Dry eye syndrome treatment during the early stages centers around artificial tear usage and methods to increase oil gland efficiency. More advanced cases will require the use of prescription medication that is designed to suppress inflammation and ultimately lead to more quality tear production. Topical steroids are used for short-term treatment depending on severity. Long-term prescription treatment may include Restasis or Xiidra.  

Redness, itch and general eye irritation can be caused by any number of factors. Eye allergies, as well as dry eye syndrome, are common culprits. A careful eye examination by your eye doctor will determine the most appropriate therapy for you. At Lake Oconee Eye Care, we would love the opportunity to serve you and care for your eyes. You can book an appointment and learn more about our team at LakeOconeeEyeCare.com or give us a call a 706-453-4535.

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