Do your eyes feel chronically dry, itchy and uncomfortable no matter what you do? It is possible that you have an eye condition optometrists refer to as dry eye syndrome. Premier optometrists Drs. Kent Dobbins and Jacob Letourneau in Lawrence, Kansas have a great deal of experience with this unfortunate condition. Below, these two incredible doctors share their extensive knowledge about what dry eye syndrome is, what causes it, and options for treatment:
Q: Dr. Letourneau, let's start with you. Can you share with us a bit about what exactly is the problem when you have dry eye syndrome?
Certainly. For comparison, let's first briefly discuss what a normal, healthy eye is like. In a healthy eye, tears are produced at a slow but steady rate in order to keep the eye consistently lubricated. This keeps your eye moist and comfortable, without producing excessive tearing. Additionally, healthy tears are also made up of different parts that each help the tear lubricate the eye successfully. These layers are: 1) An oily layer to slow evaporation, 2) A water layer to clean the eye and wash away small foreign objects and 3) A mucus layer that helps the water layer to stick to the eye and spread out evenly over the eye.
With dry eye syndrome, one of two things go wrong: Either your eyes are unable to produce enough tears to keep your eyes hydrated, or your eye may produce enough tears, but these tears lack one or more essential ingredients to successfully keep your eye hydrated and comfortable.
Q: Dr. Dobbins, now if I may ask you a question: What causes a person to develop dry eye syndrome, and what are some of the symptoms?
Many factors may contribute to a person developing dry eye syndrome. Hormonal changes are one leading factor, along with side effects from medication.
Symptoms of dry eyes may include stinging or burning in the eyes and excessive irritation from smoke, wind or dust. Although it may seem strange, in some cases of dry eye syndrome the eyes' response to the consistent irritation caused by dry eyes may be to tear excessively in an attempt to flush foreign bodies and keep itself lubricated. It is unable to do so successfully, however, due to the rate of evaporation or inability to spread the tears evenly over the surface of the eye.
Q: Dr. Letourneau, can you speak briefly about treatment options for dry eye syndrome?
Unfortunately, dry eyes are not curable, but proper treatment of dry eye syndrome does a great deal to alleviate symptoms. Your optometrist is likely to prescribe artificial tears to help with symptoms. Artificial tears are lubricating eye drops specially formulated to imitate, as closely as possible, the tears that your eyes should be producing on their own. Different artificial tears work in different ways. Some help replenish parts of the tear that your eyes are not producing on their own, others help to produce more tears overall. Your eye doctor in Lawrence, KS will assist you to choose which will help you most.
Q: One final question for Dr. Dobbins. Is there anything that can be done to relieve symptoms naturally or reduce a person's chance of developing dry eye syndrome?
There are certainly a number of ways which a person may relieve symptoms or reduce the risk of developing dry eye syndrome. Studies have shown that nutrition may have a part in helping to relieve some symptoms of dry eyes. Nutritional supplements such as omega-3 are very helpful. Good natural sources of omega-3 fatty acids are cold-water fish, cod, herring and salmon, as well as flaxseed oil. Also, be sure to drink lots of water every day! Mild dehydration can make symptoms worse.
For more information about dry eye syndrome, contact Drs. Dobbins and Letourneau today.