Dry eye symptoms often worsen as winter begins according to Dr. John Henahan of Spectrum Eyecare In Peachtree City. “As we heat our homes to stay comfortable in the winter, it causes the ambient humidity to drop dramatically. This causes our tear layer to evaporate more quickly and our eyes to feel drier”, says Dr. Henahan.
Many people with borderline symptoms find that they can no longer ignore the dryness they feel when winter begins. The good news is that the majority of people can achieve total or near total relief of their symptoms. The process begins with steps you can take at home, and then continues with interventions carried out by an optometrist specializing dry eye, such as Dr. Henahan.
You are what you eat. Most dry eye has an evaporative component. Our tears contain a natural oil layer to stabilize the tear film and reduce evaporation. The quality of this oil layer is largely determined by our diet. Eating too much fried food or products containing corn results in a thicker, lower quality oil. The best strategy is to reduce these foods in your diet. Instead eat foods with healthful fats in them such as olive oil and fatty fish. Finally, high quality fish oil supplements greatly improve the quality of your tear film when taken in sufficient quantity. Research has shown 80% of people get substantial relief from dry eye when taking two or three high quality fish oil capsules per day. When taking fish oil, be sure to smell the bottle. A powerful odor indicates that the oil has become rancid. Also always take fish oil with food for better absorption. It does take about 10-12 weeks for symptoms to be relieved by fish oil.
Add more tears. When your eyes are dry, damage can occur to the surface resulting in redness, pain, burning and blurred vision. The quickest way to experience relief is with the use of artificial tears. Unlike Visine and other medicated drops that should be avoided, artificial tears contain no drugs to further damage the surface of your eyes. Instead, they moisturize the surface of your eye. This improves vision, comfort and ultimately can help heal minor irritations on the surface. Various brands use different approaches, but two of Dr. Henahan’s favorites are Blink Tears and Systane Balance. Both work quite differently, so you may need to experiment with both to learn which feels better in your eyes. For the drops to be effective, you should use them two to four times per day for at least a few weeks.
Plug the drain. When your eyes are dry, you can try to retain your tears more effectively. Fish oil does this by reducing evaporation. The main way tears are lost is through the natural draining of tears into your tear ducts. There are two ducts, one in your lower lid and one in your upper lid. By using a simple technique, we can stop up the lower drain, allowing your eye to hold more of it’s own tears. This wonderful technique can reduce dry eye symptoms in as little as 30 minutes after completion. This procedure, called punctal occlusion is performed in the office of an optometrist who specializes in dry eye treatment. It is painless, quick, reversible and is usually covered by your medical insurance.
Prescription Dry Eye Drops. Sometimes prescription eye drops are needed to relieve the symptoms of dry eye as well as to allow for healing of the surface tissue. Steroid eye drops used for a short course of treatment can provide rapid improvement. For long term relief, Restasis prescription eye drops can safely be used for years. While Restasis is very effective, it does take six to twelve months for the maximal benefit to be achieved.
Oral medications. If dry eye is associated with severe inflammation of the eyelids, oral medications such as doxycycline are sometimes used in low dose form for three to six months. This reduces eyelid inflammation allowing the surface of the eye to heal and reduce symptoms of dry eye.
These five steps are almost always used in some combination with one another, so it is not uncommon to have a patient using fish oil and Restasis even if they have already had the punctal occlusion procedure. They key is to work through the steps gradually until dry eye relief is achieved.
Dr. Henahan takes the time to thoroughly evaluate and treat dry eye with a strategy that provides substantial relief to almost all patients. If you would like to learn more, feel free to contact Dr. Henahan at 770-487-0667 or on his website at www.SpecEye.com