About Medicine: Dry Eyes Can Cause Health Problems, Discomfort

Shelane Hughson C.O.A., Don Sanderson C.O.A., and Emily Simkins C.O.A.
Bitterroot Valley Eye Associates
A Service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital
300 North 10th Street
Hamilton, MT 59840
(406) 363-5434


You should know just how crucial dry eyes are to your health and comfort.

We truly live in a beautiful place. The amazing mountains, fantastic waterways, gorgeous blue sky and breathtaking views. Montanans are lucky, but with all this beauty we get to live in a very dry climate. A dry climate equates to a lot of Montanan's with dry eye syndrome. The number one concern from our patients is dry eyes.

A lot of people think that a teary, watery eye isn't a dry one. It can be very confusing! A teary, watery eye is actually a dry eye. Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when you do not produce the right type of tears, or they evaporate too quickly. Our tears are made up of oils, mucous and water. They also hold proteins, electrolytes and vitamins, which play a very important role in keeping the eyes lubricated and nourished.

There are a few different names for dry eye syndrome: keratoconjunctivis sicca (KCS), dysfunctional tear syndrome, lacrimal keratoconjunctivis, evaporative tear deficiency, and aqueous tear deficiency.

Dry eyes are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. The most common signs and symptoms are: burning, stinging, stringy mucous, the feeling that something is in the eye, blurry vision that comes and goes, watery eyes, tired eyes, red eyes, and contact lenses feeling uncomfortable while wearing them.

Treatments for Dry Eye Syndrome
There are treatments for dry eye syndrome, but keep in mind these treatments do not work overnight and they take time. Some patients may have to treat their dry eye syndrome for a lifetime. Make it a routine, like brushing your teeth.
  1. Artificial tears help lubricate the eyes when our own tears lack the proper balance of moisture and nutrients.
    Preservative-free artificial tears are recommended because they have fewer additives, so you can use them as many times as you want. Artificial Tears with preservatives can cause eye irritation. Samples of artificial tears and or coupons can be offered to you by your Ophthalmologist. While reading, using computer, (any near work) or watching T.V., keep Artificial tears close and use them while performing these task.
    ​There are also artificial tears made thicker and gel like. These are usually used at night because they will temporarily blur vision.
  2. Omega 3's, Fish Oil and or Flax Seed vitamins.
  3. Hydrate by drinking plenty of water, every person is different so ask your Doctor how much is right for you.
  4. If contact lenses are uncomfortable due to dry eyes use rewetting drops. Your Ophthalmologist may have you temporarily or permanently discontinue wearing your contact lenses.
  5. Prescription Eye Drops (Restasis Cyclosporine Ophthalmic Emulsion) can be prescribed by your Ophthalmologist.
    Restasis helps increase your eyes natural ability to produce tears, which may be reduced by inflammation due to chronic dry eye. It does take several months to see a rise in tear production and comfort.
  6. Temporary or permanent punctal plugs are another form of treatment and the procedure can be done within the clinic.
  7. Cauterization of the tear duct.
  8. Wearing glasses or sunglasses that fit close to the face or that have side shields can help slow tear evaporation from the eye.
  9. Indoors, an air cleaner to filter dust and other particles help prevent dry eyes. A humidifier also helps by adding moisture to the air.

Leading Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome include:

  1. Living in a dry climate
  2. Smoking, the chemicals in smoking cause inflammation and irritate the eyes.
  3. Some medications have side effects that include dry eye.
  4. More women than men have dry eye, due to low testosterone.
  5. Pollution
  6. Maturity
  7. Poor diet
  8. Excess alcohol
  9. Lack of exercise
  10. Chronic stress
  11. Wearing contact lenses too long. Always use rewetting drops daily. Do not sleep in contact lenses!
  12. Reading, computer use, watching T.V., or any task that requires concentration can lead to dry eyes. When performing these tasks, we concentrate so hard, we forget to blink. Our lids help in moisturizing our eyes and act as miniature windshield wipers, spreading tear film around the eyes surface. If there aren't sufficient tears, then artificial tears help.
  13. Nutrition for the eyes is important as well. Eating the right foods, can help lubricate and keep your eyes healthy. Good sources are fish oil, eating salmon, halibut, sardines and tuna. Other sources are flax seed oil and flax seed. Flax seed should be ground, and can be sprinkled in yogurt. Antioxidants, which fights off free radicals, such as a diet in dark fruits, such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, acai berries, and cherries. Dark green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach and chard are also healthy options.


When should you see your ophthalmologist?
A good time to see your Ophthalmologist is when you have symptoms of pain, redness or watering. He or she will evaluate your condition and treat if needed.

Warm up in style with new eyeglass frames from Bitterroot Valley Eye Associates! Get 15% off all eyeglass frames at Bitterroot Valley Eye Associates' Optical Center from January 1, 2016 to January 31, 2016 with coupon. Visit mdmh.org for coupon and more information. Walk-ins welcomed.

Sources: National Eye Institute, WebMD, and Restasis.

Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please contact, Shelane Hughson C.O.A., Don Sanderson C.O.A., or Emily Simkins C.O.A. at Bitterroot Valley Eye Associates, a service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, 300 North 10th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!

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