Q: Is it true that dry eye symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the spring and summer?
Dr. Viker: Absolutely; we tend to see more patients that are struggling with dry eye symptoms in the winter months. We live in a cold, dry climate that can cause tears to evaporate from the surface of the eye. Additionally, a lot of people tend to be dehydrated in the winter time as it is easy to overlook drinking enough water during periods of cold weather. Dehydration can worsen symptoms of dry eye.
Q: When should a person see their optometrist for dry eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of it yourself?
Dr. Viker: We recommend coming in for an evaluation for dry eyes as early as possible. There are different types of dry eyes and it is important to be proactive in addressing them to ensure the long-term health of your eyes. Dry eye syndrome is a complex cycle of events that can damage tear-producing glands of the eyes. Early treatment is typically less expensive and can help keep your eyes healthy and comfortable for many years.
Q: What is the examination like to determine if someone has dry eyes?
Dr. Viker: A large part of the examination is finding out what the patient is experiencing and determining the type of dry eye causing the symptoms. We look at the surface of the eye under a microscope to look at the quantity and the quality of the tear film. Additionally, we examine the eyelids and the glands inside the eyelids to insure they are healthy. Typically, a drop of yellow dye is placed in the eye which helps us look for dry spots on the surface of the eye.
Q: I have a friend and his eyes are very watery – that isn’t dry eye is it?
Dr. Viker: Surprisingly, watery eyes are a very common sign of dry eye. There are three different types of tears (mucous tears, watery tears, and lipid tears) produced by the eye and the watery tears are the easiest for the eye to make. If there aren’t enough lipid tears from the eyelid’s oil glands, the eye will try to compensate by making more watery tears, but without the lipid tears to insulate the watery tears, the watery tears overflow and run down the patient’s face.
Q: What are the typical treatments for dry eyes?
Dr. Viker: There are a wide range of treatments ranging from over the counter products to specialty laser procedures. Many times using artificial tears and vitamin supplements can help boost the tear film. There are prescription eye drops that can aid in tear production as well as laser procedures for patients with more advanced dry eye.
Q: Are some people more prone to having dry eyes than others?
Dr. Viker: Yes. Patients with certain medical diagnoses or patients that take specific medications can be more prone to dry eye. Using digital devices like smart phones and computers cause us to blink less frequently which can contribute to dryness as well.
Q: Do you have any recommendations to help people avoid dry eye?
Dr. Viker: Of course – we always recommend being hydrated and making sure you consume enough water each day. Additionally, taking breaks from your computer and smart phone can help as well. We recommend the 20/20/20 Rule – take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away and blink your eyes. Wearing sunglasses is critical to protecting the surface of the eye and the eyelids from UV exposure.