Dry Climate Shouldn’t Equal Dry Eyes

dry eyesIn Idaho, the climate can be so dry at times that it’s like we’re in Death Valley. You’d think that in this climate everyone would have dry eyes and people in places like Miami would never deal with the problem.

Truth is, dry eye is an ocular disease and not a response to the humidity in a particular area. At The Eye Associates, we have extensive experience with dry eye and its treatment.

What is dry eye?

Since they’re exposed to the air, our eyes create a natural thin film of tears to combat the exposure. It is a continual process. This layer keeps the eyes from drying out and protects them from potential damage from dust, the wind, and other stuff in the environment. When a person’s body doesn’t produce enough tears to provide this protective layer, or when the tears produced are substandard quality, then the eyes become exposed to irritants in the environment.

Patients with dry eye experience irritation on the conjunctiva or a feeling of a slight stinging, burning, or itching. Because of their damage to the sensitive membranes in the eyes, if left untreated dry eyes can escalate into impaired vision.

What causes dry eye?

Dry eye is usually caused by the inability of the patient to produce enough tears to properly lubricate the eyes. This can happen when the lacrimal glands are impaired and cannot physically produce enough tears. This happens more frequently as patients age, when they are suffering from other medical conditions, or when decreased tear production is a side effect of a treatment regimen or medication.

Also, tears of subpar quality can be produced and lead to dry eye. To be effective, tears must be comprised of three significant layers: a water layer, oil layer, and a mucin layer. If any of these layers is missing or insufficient, the patient’s tears will not sufficiently protect the eye.

Treatment

Dry eye is the most common reason patients see their eye care professional, other than normal eye exams. It is estimated that 55 million Americans have dry eye. Treatment for dry eye with The Eye Associates team could include discontinuation of a drug being taken by the patient, once the reaction has been ascertained. It also could be found that the patient’s eyelids are overly small or they don’t blink correctly. In these cases, surgery may be needed. Finally, medications that stimulate lubrication of the eye may be prescribed.

Are your eyes itching, stinging, and burning? Call us at The Eye Associates in Meridian (208-342-5151) or Caldwell (208-459-0717) to schedule your appointment.

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