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Marian Macsai, MD, NorthShore Division Chief of Ophthalmology, answered questions on dry eye syndrome in the winter edition of Connections and she continues her Q&A here:
Connections Q & A:
What is dry eye syndrome?It is a condition that develops when the eye does not produce enough of the watery layer that makes up tears, or tears evaporate because they lack normal levels of an oily substance. This inflammatory disease is associated with several factors, including aging, hormonal changes, autoimmune disease, certain medications, disorders of the eye surface and cosmetic surgery.
What are the symptoms?Patients typically complain of stinging, burning, pain, redness, tearing, fatigue, blurred vision and intolerance to wearing contact lenses. Some patients also feel as if something is in their eye.
Can I prevent it?It is important to avoid wind and dry air and to protect your eyes by wearing wraparound sunglasses. Use a humidifier and rest your eyes by taking frequent, short breaks when reading or using a computer or cellphone. Staring at a computer screen reduces the normal rate of blinking and can result in drying of the eye’s surface.
What are my treatment options?Schedule a complete eye exam to determine the underlying cause of dry eye syndrome. Your doctor may recommend one of the following:• Dietary supplements
Over-the-counter artificial tears may provide relief, but seek medical attention if you use them more than four times a day. Some patients may need to reduce or eliminate wearing contact lenses. Patients with advanced cases may require surgery to close the tear drainage system.
Continued Q & A:
Can delayed treatment of dry eye syndrome damage a patient's vision?If left untreated, a patient with dry eye syndrome is at a greater risk for infection and erosions of the cornea. In either case, vision may be affected, possibly with a permanent impairment.
Once dry eye syndrome develops, can it be cured? The condition is chronic. It can be controlled but it cannot be cured.
Would improved hydration--drinking more water--reduce symptoms of dry eye syndrome?Dehydration affections your entire body but dyhydration is not the source of dry eye syndrome. While hydration is important for your general health, staying hydrated has not been shown to improve the symptoms of dry eyes.
You mention dietary supplements as a treatment option for dry eye syndrome; what supplements would help?Omega 3 dietary supplements have been shown to decrease inflammation on the ocular surface and improve dry eyes. Not all omega supplements are the same, however. When taking omega 3s, make sure you are taking a triglyceride formulation rather than an ethyl esther formulation.