Florida Eye Specialists
During the long days of summer, we have plenty of time to get outside, enjoy the sunshine and play in the water. Unfortunately, symptoms of dry eye — including stinging, itching, aching and blurred vision — can make us see summer in a different light. A recent report published in “The Ocular Surface” Journal suggests that up to half of the adult population is affected by dry eye. This figure can rise even higher during summer months when exposure to sunlight, spending more time outdoors, dehydration and swimming in the ocean or pools can exacerbate symptoms of dry eye and make it harder to manage.
Don’t let dry eye throw shade on your summer plans. By reviewing the causes, symptoms and treatment options for dry eye, you can break the cycle of eye irritation, feel better and take control of your eye health.
Causes of dry eye
Dry eye occurs when the eyes produce poor-quality tears or not enough tears. While summertime activities can worsen dry eye symptoms, there are many potential underlying causes. For some, certain medications like antihistamines, birth control pills and nasal decongestants can cause a lack of tear production, which results in dry and irritated eyes. For others, environmental factors can cause dry eye, as can wearing the wrong type of contact lens. Some sufferers experience dry eye because of their digital device viewing habits.
Symptoms and effects of dry eyes
Symptoms of dry eye usually affect both eyes. They include blurred vision, stinging, burning or scratching sensations in the eyes, stringy mucus found in or near the eyes, eye redness, eye fatigue, the sensation of having grit in the eyes and contact lens intolerance. Wearing contact lenses or performing an activity that requires prolonged visual effort (like reading or working on a computer) often worsens these symptoms.
People who suffer from dry eye are more susceptible to eye infections. And, if untreated, the condition causes ulcers and scars on the cornea, and can rarely result in a permanent, partial loss of vision.
Tips for preventing dry eye in summer months
There are a few things to be mindful of while managing dry eye symptoms in the summer. Wear sunglasses with UV protection to avoid excessive sun exposure. Goggles or snorkel masks can block irritants from the pool or ocean. Be sure to wash your face of sweat and sunscreen. And, keep a healthy distance from smoke caused by campfires and cookouts, which is harmful to your eyes.
All year-round, you can use store-bought, preservative-free hydrating eye drops to help keep the symptoms of dry eye at bay. However, for those who still experience symptoms after using store-bought or medicated eye drops, a visit to an eye doctor may be needed to determine the specific cause of the problem and viable treatment options.
Dry eye treatment
Getting the right treatment is key to stopping the progress of dry eye condition. Treatment options include artificial tears, gels, eye drops or plugs inserted in the tear ducts. A newer treatment offered at the Florida Eye Specialists Dry Eye Center is LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation, which uses warm temperature and gentle massaging to open blocked glands.
Dry eye is a chronic condition that is often permanent, but if treated, relief is in sight. Make an appointment with a medical professional to determine the cause of your dry eye and come up with a custom-tailored plan of treatment to suit your needs and lifestyle.
Rajesh Shetty, M.D., is a Ponte Vedra resident, board-certified, double fellowship-trained ophthalmologist and CEO of Florida Eye Specialists. For more information about Dr. Shetty and dry eye treatment options, visit FloridaEyeSpecialists.com.