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Dry Eye in Women

Dry eye affects an estimated 20.7 million people in the United States is one of the most common reasons that people visit their eye doctor.

  • One of the largest groups affected by dry eye is menopausal women
  • Dry eye can be a progressive disease, and if left untreated, chronic dry eye can lead to more serious problems, including impaired vision and an increased risk of eye infection.
  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans experience symptoms of dry eye on a regular basis, including eye dryness, blurred vision, itching, sensitivity to light, irritation and foreign body sensation.
  • Dry eye can be aggravated by a number of external factors, including computer use, heating and air conditioning, and exposure to dust and allergens.

Chronic dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also known as dry eye syndrome) occurs when underlying changes to the health of the tear-producing glands result in a change in the quality and quantity of tears produced, which may be due to inflammation. As a result, the tear film can no longer provide enough nourishment or protection to the surface of the eye. The main functions of tears are to lubricate the eyes and protect them from bacteria and environmental irritants such as dust. This requires both the right amount of tears and a balance of the many components that make up tears.

Symptoms of dry eye can vary greatly from one person to the next, often fluctuating throughout the day and usually becoming worse later in the day. These symptoms may include eye dryness, itching, irritation, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, foreign body sensation or excessive tearing. Dry eye can be a progressive disease that, if left untreated, can lead to increased risk of infection or visual impairment.

Dry eye is a medical condition that affects more than 20 million people in the United States. The condition can have a dramatic impact on quality of life-including trouble with professional work, reading, driving at night and using a computer. Despite this impact, dry eye often goes unrecognized and under diagnosed, as many sufferers remain unaware of the condition and its causes.

What factors contribute to dry eye?

Dry eye disproportionately affects more women than men and is often caused by hormonal changes due to aging and menopause. Dry eye can also be caused by certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, diuretics, oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy.

Additionally, dry eye can be caused by autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rosacea, sarcoidosis, and Sj√∂gren’s syndrome or other medical conditions such as thyroid conditions, vitamin A deficiency and diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Dry eye can be aggravated by a number of external factors, many of which are common in workplace environments, including:

  • Driving
  • Contact lens use
  • Hot, dry or windy environments
  • Exposure to dust and allergens
  • Reading
  • Heating and air conditioning
  • Computer use

How is chronic dry eye diagnosed?

Anyone who experiences symptoms such as eye dryness, itching, irritation, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, foreign body sensation or excessive tearing, or who uses over-the-counter eye drops on a regular basis without relief, may have chronic dry eye.

We can check for the signs and symptoms of chronic dry eye using several quick and painless tests to measure visual clarity, tear production, ocular surface dryness and damage to the cornea or conjunctiva (the membrane that lines the eyelids).

Some of the tests we may use to diagnose dry eye will measure the production, evaporation rate and quality of the tear film.

How can dry eye be treated?

If left untreated, over time, inflammation and reduced tear production can damage the surface of the eye and exacerbate chronic dry eye. Treatment is based on disease severity and an evaluation of the cause of the disease. In general, early treatment for a chronic condition like dry eye is more likely to achieve better patient outcomes.

There are over-the-counter eye drops to help relieve dry eye symptoms; however there is currently only one prescription eye drop approved to increase tear production which may be reduced by inflammation in patients with chronic dry eye. Anyone who uses over-the-counter eye drops on a regular basis without relief or who regularly experiences eye dryness, itching, irritation, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, foreign body sensation or excessive tearing despite using eye drops is encouraged to see us to determine whether they have chronic dry eye. We will try to determine the cause of symptoms, to see if they are the result of an environmental factor or due to inflammation, an underlying cause of the disease.