How to combat dry eye

As winter approaches and we start to use our heat pumps more, the incidence of dry eye increases markedly. 

Mild symptoms can be exacerbated in the winter months and lead to tired and sore eyes.

The symptoms of dry eye include painful, red and burning eyes, increased blink rate, squinting, blurred vision, tired eyes, gravelly sensation in the eyes and even watery eyes can be a sign.

Contact lens wearers may also be more susceptible to dry eye and discomfort is the main cause of ceasing contact lens wear.  Women and hay fever sufferers are also more prone to dry eye.

Dry eye sounds quite innocuous, but the symptoms can greatly impact people’s lives. 

The increase in our screen-based work in recent years also affects our eyes and tear film, the blink rate actually slows down while focussing at close distances which gives the tear film an opportunity to break down between blinks.

There are many treatment options for dry eye and using eye drops alone is often not enough.  Most over the counter eye drops only replenish the liquid layer of the tear film, but the insulating oily layer of the tears can often be the culprit causing the symptoms. 

Underlying inflammation also contributes to dry eye symptoms. 

The main treatment options include over the counter and prescription eye drops, eyelid hygiene, special IPL treatment, lifestyle advice and heated eye masks with eye lid massage.

IPL for dry eye is a relatively new treatment and has an 85 per cent success rate in reducing signs and symptoms.  The treatments take place over three months and reduce the reliance on eye drops for some types of dry eye. 

The IPL stimulates the oil glands of the eye lids to produce a better quantity and quality oil for the tear film.  If you are experiencing the symptoms of dry eyes it is important to have a proper assessment before trying various eye drops to ensure you’re having a tailored treatment specific to your symptoms and eyes.

Beth Trevor is an optometrist at See Eyecare
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