Do you have dry eyes?

Discomfort, redness, gritty sensation in the eye―what if it was simply dry eyes? Here is how to prevent and treat it.

What does dry eye mean?

Tears mainly consist of water and oily substances. They are produced by the lacrimal glands and cover the entire surface of the eye (cornea) through blinking. A thin protective barrier called the “tear film” nourishes the cornea, by helping to moisten and protect it from exterior threats such as foreign particles, bacteria, dust, etc. It also helps to prevent lesions, infections and irritations.

Dry eye occurs when tear production is insufficient or altered, or when tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to unpleasant symptoms that can sometimes significantly impact quality of life. It is estimated that more than one out of three people are affected by dry eye after the age of 50.

What are the possible symptoms of dry eye?

Some people are unaware that their eyes are dry. Certain signs and symptoms can appear over time, such as:

  • eye discomfort or pain
  • feeling of irritation, itching, burning or grittiness in the eye (e.g., feels like a grain of sand)
  • red eyes
  • increased lacrimation
  • sensitivity to light, and
  • blurred vision

What are the possible causes of dry eye?

It is normal for your eyes to become more and more dry as you age. That being said, dry eye can occur at any age. It can be promoted or caused by a multitude of factors, including:

  • insufficient blinking
  • exposure to the sun, wind, cold or dry air (such as indoor heating for instance)
  • a cold or allergies
  • the use of contact lenses
  • smoking
  • various chronic diseases (diabetes, Parkinson’s, Sjogrens syndrome, etc.)
  • hormonal changes (e.g., menopause)
  • taking certain medications (antidepressants, medications for urinary incontinence or acne, eye medication, etc.), and
  • eye surgery

How to prevent dry eye

Our modern living habits contribute to the development of dry eye.

  • Remember to blink frequently, especially when you are reading or looking at a screen (computer, tablet, smartphone, television, etc.). Limit exposure times to screens.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures from air-conditioning or indoor heating. If the air in your home is dry, consider using a humidifier.
  • Refrain from smoking or avoid exposure to second-hand
  • When you swim in a pool, for example, use appropriate protective eye-wear.
  • If you wear contact lenses, carefully follow use and care instructions.
  • Do not use contact lenses or cleansing products past the recommended or expiry date.
  • Wear sunglasses when you are exposed to sun rays.

How to treat dry eye

Dry eye cannot be “cured”; however, the causes can be eliminated or well controlled. Treatment usually involves easing symptoms with the use of certain products. Applying artificial tears is the preferred measure to relieve dry eyes.

These products come in liquid, ointment or gel format, and most of them are available without a prescription. Since there is a wide range of these products, it is always better to ask your pharmacist for advice before purchasing one. They will help you to choose the one best-suited to your needs.

Artificial tears do not cause dependency or addiction. Therefore, they can be used as a long-term solution without concern. However, here are some important precautions to ensure optimal and safe use of these types of products. 

  • Ask your pharmacist to show you the optimal administration technique for the product you intend to use.
  • Do not use an eye product that has expired, that is altered (appearance, smell or viscosity) or if it has not been stored according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Store the bottle at room temperature in a dry and cool place that is not exposed to moisture and temperature variations. Take the time to read the manufacturer’s storage instructions.
  • Do not share your bottle or tube with anyone else, and refrain from using a product that was used by someone else.
  • Ask your pharmacist to give you the expiration date of the product once it has been opened. Since there is a risk of contamination by bacteria, you cannot rely on the expiry date that appears on the bottle.

If the measures described in this article are not sufficient to counter dry eye, other treatments can be considered. If you have persistent dry eye, see a doctor or an eye care professional, such as an optometrist or an ophthalmologist.

Don’t hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information about dry eye and its treatments.

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