If you are reading this article, you or someone you know may suffer from dry eyes. You are not alone. Dry eyes can be a temporary problem. But for many people, it is a chronic condition. As a matter of fact, chronic dry eye is a very common reason patients seek help from an eye care professional and it is estimated that 6.8 percent of all adults experience chronic dry eyes.
What is Chronic Dry Eye?
Dry Eye Syndrome or Dry Eye Disease is characterized by a decreased secretion of tears, tears of “poor quality,” and rapid tear evaporation. Common complaints associated with dry eye may include: discomfort due to dryness, stinging or burning, scratchiness or gritty sensation, blurred vision and believe it or not – watering eyes. Watering eyes can cause your eye to produce excessive tears. But when those tears are not of good quality (which includes the proper balance of water, salt and oils) your eyes become dry and the cycle continues.
The Dangers of Untreated Dry Eyes
When long term or chronic dry eye symptoms are ignored or left untreated, they can have a negative impact on your quality of life. However, chronic dry eye can also lead to permanent damage of the eye and possible loss of vision. Some of the complications of untreated chronic dry eye include:
A healthy cornea is important as it keeps dust, germs and UV rays from entering the eye. When healthy tears are absent, particles that get into your eyes may not be properly washed away. Instead, they scratch the surface causing irritation. This constant irritation can lead to scratches on the cornea, resulting in an open sore known as an ulcer. This is an entry point for infection causing bacteria. Antibiotics may be used to treat the infection. However, when left untreated permanent vision loss can occur.
Characterized by inflammation of the clear layer of cells that cover the white part of the eye and inner eyelids. This infection can cause discharge, pain and redness of the eye.
Inflammation of the clear, dome-shaped portion of the eye (cornea). If untreated, the deeper portion of the cornea can be affected resulting in scarring and/or vision loss.
Difficulty Keeping Eyes Open and Light Sensitivity
Photophobia is a condition that may not present with dry eyes but is not considered rare. This condition is when a person is sensitive or has an intolerance to light. The type of light can range from sunlight, office lighting or lights found in the home. This intolerance can lead to headaches – such as migraine.
Loss of ability to perform daily activities
As mentioned above, blurry vision can be a symptom of chronic dry eyes. When untreated, the blurriness may worsen to the point of becoming double vision. This can affect your daily activities such as your ability to read, work or drive, resulting in a poor quality of life. In addition, when engaging in an activity such as driving that requires increased concentration, you often times will blink less than you would normally. This can cause the tears you do have to evaporate quickly, leaving your eyes feeling dry and continuing the loop of dry eye symptoms.
Causes of Dry Eye and Treatment
Dry eye can be caused from environmental factors, a malfunction of the structures of the eye or a deficiency of vitamins or minerals in the diet. Fortunately, your eyecare professional should be able to assist you with determining the root cause and find the best treatment plan for you.
Based on the cause and severity of dry eye, you have options to consider ranging from lifestyle changes, home remedies, prescription medications or medical procedures. Many people are aware that artificial tears (eyedrops) may be used to treat dry eye. These can be over the counter or by prescription only. Nutritional supplements, such as Hydroptic® Advanced Dry Eye Formula, may also be a treatment option.
Supplementation may be used to treat dry eye symptoms from the inside. This is done when the underlying cause is linked to nutrition or a deficiency in the diet. When choosing a supplement be sure to read the ingredients, check the dosage, check the bioavailability (the degree at which a substance is absorbed) and make sure it is manufactured by a trusted source.
There are vitamins and minerals to consider when choosing a nutritional supplement for dry eyes:
- Vitamin B6 – This vitamin helps with the absorption of magnesium which is needed to produce tears.
- Vitamin C – A well know antioxidant, Vitamin C assist with healing and tear breakup time on the surface of the eye.
- Vitamin D3 – A deficiency in this vitamin can delay cornea healing causing inflammation.
- Vitamin E – This antioxidant helps to protect the cells in your eyes from free radical cell damage.
- Magnesium – Known as the element Mg, magnesium may increase blood flow in the eye and assist with tear production.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids / Flaxseed Oil – these help with the scratchy or stinging feeling of irritation and helps to soothe inflammation.
Astaxanthin – A carotene (photosynthetic pigment) that can inhibit inflammation and is often referred to as the “King of the Carotenoids.” It is more potent than beta-carotene and Vitamin C. (Fun Fact: Astaxanthin is naturally sourced from algae and yeast. It is a blood-red pigment and is responsible for giving lobster, shrimp, crab, flamingos and salmon flesh a pink color.)
Turmeric – an Asian anti-inflammatory spice and antioxidant said to be a protective agent
- Vitamin A – This vitamin is known to help with tear production and eye lubrication. A deficiency can lead to dry eyes. However, there have been studies suggesting that there is an increased risk of lung cancers in people who have a history of smoking and use of Vitamin A supplementation. Always consult a medical professional to discuss your medical history and any medication – whether prescription or over-the-counter – you are taking.
Regarding dietary supplements, it is important to remember that supplements are meant to do just that – supplement, not replace a well, balanced diet. Remember to discuss your options with your healthcare provider.
Most importantly, do not ignore dry eye symptoms that seems to linger or progressively worsen. Our eyesight is one of the most important of the senses! Taking care of your eyes will help lessen the chance of eye conditions or diseases that could lead to vison loss.
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