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COVID has kept you indoors a lot the past six months. As winter approaches, your outdoor time will drop even further. All that time inside can cause dry eye. How? And what can you do to treat it?
What is dry eye?
Dry eye is when you don’t produce enough tears or the appropriate tear quality to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable. Symptoms include uncomfortable eyes, scratchiness, stinging, light sensitivity, a sensation of something in the eyes, stringy mucus in or around your eyes, redness, difficulty wearing contact lenses, difficulty with nighttime driving, eye fatigue, and blurry vision. You may even experience excess tearing, as your eyes will start producing more tears to address the irritation dry eye causes. About 30 million Americans have dry eye.
If left untreated, dry eye can lead to eye infections and damage to the surface of the eye and can make everyday activities more challenging.
Screen time and dry eye
The letters on a screen are not as sharp as those in print, and the screen’s glare may pose a problem. Also, the distance we sit from screens is unusual compared to other objects we’re looking at, which means our eyes have to work harder to focus. Improper posture or looking back and forth between a piece of paper and your monitor, can also be an issue. Uncorrected vision can also be an issue.
Dry air and dry eye
Dry air in your home can irritate your eyes. If you sleep with a fan aimed directly at you, you can have eight hours of dry air hitting your face every night. If you sleep with your eyes partially open, as some people do, it will only be worse.
Heat and dry eye
It can be comfortable sitting next to a fire or space heater, especially during the chilly months. Just don’t sit too close, as they can dry out your eyes, especially if the heat is blowing directly at you.
How can I treat dry eye?
Staying hydrated by drinking lots of water can keep your eye moisture levels at a healthy level. Artificial tears, gels and ointments can lubricate your eyes, too. A humidifier can keep the air in your home humid, too, which will be even more beneficial as we start using home heating. Similarly, avoid sitting too close to heat sources.
The 20-20-20 rule is very helpful for resting your eyes while you’re on your computer. Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. When doing this, perform a few hard blinks to help express the oil glands in your eyelids, CEENTA Optometrist Nicole Rose, OD, said. A high-quality omega-3 supplement can also help add oil to the tear film to improve the quality of your tears.
The iLux option
If other dry eye treatments are unsuccessful, you may want to consider iLux. iLux is a new portable thermal pulsation system that treats dry eye by applying heat and pressure to the meibomian glands – the oil glands found on both upper and lower eyelids – which are the source of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). The meibomian glands are responsible for the oily, or topmost, layer of the tear film. The oily layer is critical to the tear film and helps prevent evaporation of tears. It takes about 10 minutes per eye, and most patients have the procedure done once or twice per year.
MGD is caused from a blockage or loss of the glands that make meibum. Meibum is an oil that, combined with water and mucus, create the tears that keep your eyes moist. The oil prevents the water from drying out or evaporating too quickly. MGD is a common eye issue, but many people don’t realize they have it.
Dry eye care at CEENTA
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with a CEENTA doctor. Whether you need iLux or just eye drops, they’ll develop a treatment plan to keep your eyes moist during these indoor months.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. Would you like an appointment with Dr. Rose? Call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.
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