DES, known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is one of the most commonly diagnosed eye conditions, and people with diabetes are at higher risk for this disorder. In fact, research shows that people living with diabetes can have up to a 50 percent chance of suffering from dry eye.
What is dry eye?
Dry eye is a condition in which the eye does not produce tears properly. It can also involve tears not having the right consistency or evaporating too quickly. Tears are necessary to help maintain moisture on the surface of the eye and for clear vision. In many cases the surface of the eye becomes inflamed and if not treated, pain, ulcers, scars, and possibly loss of some vision can occur.
What causes dry eye?
Age: The older we get, the drier the eyes can get. Most people over the age of 65 have some degree of dry eye.
Gender: Women are more likely to have dry eye than men, thanks to hormonal changes.
Medications: Blood pressure medications, birth control pills, antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants can reduce tear production.
Medical conditions: Having diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and thyroid problems, along with certain eye problems, raise the risk of dry eye. Research shows that dry eye in people with diabetes is typically linked with a type of neuropathy called autonomic neuropathy; this neuropathy can affect the nerves that control tear production.
Environment: Dry, windy, or smoky climates increase dry eye risk. Staring at a computer screen all day also increases the likelihood.
Refractive surgery: Procedures such as LASIK, LASEK, and PRK can decrease tear production and lead to dry eye.
Contact lens–wearers are also more likely to have dry eye, although contact lenses don’t cause the condition.
How do you know if you have dry eye?
Any of the following symptoms could signal dry eye:
• Stinging or burning sensation in the eye
• Feeling like you have something gritty in your eye
• Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
• Pain in the eyes
• Eye redness
• Eye fatigue
• Blurry vision
• Heavy eyelids
• Excess tears following periods of very dry eyes
• Inability to wear contact lenses
Dry eye disease and allergies have many of the same or similar symptoms. The best way to determine for sure whether it’s allergies or dry eye disease is to visit your optometrist. During a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist will evaluate your symptoms and help you determine the underlying cause of any discomfort.
Treatment for dry eye disease
Dry eye is a chronic condition that can be treated in a number of ways. While these treatments cannot cure you, they will greatly alleviate your symptoms. At LMC Optometry we offer a variety of different treatments for dry eye disease and our optometrist will recommend the best one for your particular case. Visit www.lmcoptometry.ca to learn more.
• Applying warm compresses on the eyes
• Cleaning the eyelids to remove debris and oil and to help the glands in your eyelids function properly
• Massaging the eyelids
• Blinking regularly when at the computer and when reading
• Wearing sunglasses when outdoors
• Increasing the humidity at home and at work
• Keeping your blood sugars in your target range as often as possible
• Omega-3 fatty acids: Studies show that increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help with dry eye management. The best sources of omega-3s are fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring). You can also speak with your doctor or dietitian about taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement in the form of fish oil or flaxseed oil.
• Fluids: To prevent dehydration, drink plenty (roughly 8–10 glasses each day) of non-caloric fluids during the day, such as water, seltzer water, or unsweetened ice tea.
• Eat a nutritious diet: While more research is needed, there may be some basis for increasing your intake of potassium, vitamin A, zinc, and B vitamins to help with eye health. Do this by eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
Dry eye is an uncomfortable, chronic condition that can affect the quality of your life if it’s not treated. Be patient and work with your eye care specialist to find the approach that works best for you.