Did you know that an estimated 26 million Americans have been diagnosed with dry eye disease (DED) and millions more suffer from dry eye symptoms without a formal diagnosis? That’s nearly 8 percent of the population. What’s more, a 2012 Gallup Poll suggested that nearly 30 million Americans will suffer from the disease by 2022.
Dry eye disease is a common and chronic condition that occurs when your tear glands aren’t able to produce adequate lubrication for your eye. Your glands may either not produce enough tears altogether or produce tears that evaporate too quickly. When left untreated, dry eye can cause a wide variety of complications, ranging from double vision to serious infections. Fortunately, relief is available.
Dr. Allen Pusateri, an eye doctor in Land O’Lakes at the Florida Eye Center, has completed advanced training far beyond his residency to allow him to diagnose and treat common cornea and external ocular conditions, such as dry eye syndrome and chronic conjunctivitis. To help you get a better understanding of why dry eye occurs, continue reading to learn more about three main causes of dry eye.
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By far, one of the most common reasons behind chronic dry eye is aging. In fact, dry eye occurs in approximately 5-30 percent of the general elderly population. This is part of why it’s so important for all seniors to have a routine eye examination.
Why is dry eye so prevalent in the elderly? The simple answer is that tear production declines with age. The more scientific answer is that one or more components of the lacrimal functional unit (tear producing glands and their neural connections) suffers significantly with aging. While this type of dry eye cannot be prevented, using artificial tears on a regular basis can provide additional lubrication to coat your eyes and relieve unnecessary dryness.
Many prescription and nonprescription medications actively increase the risk of dry eye syndromes. This is because tears are composed of oil, water, and mucus, and certain medications are known to reduce mucus and oil production. Below, we’ve outlined just a few of the categories of medicine linked to dry eye syndrome:
Last but certainly not least, one of the most common causes behind chronic dry eye is environmental conditions. This includes everything from wind and low humidity to smoke and dry climates. Something as simple as the decreased atmospheric pressure in commercial airline cabins or air blowing in your eyes from an open car window can cause you to experience symptoms of dry eye. Cold climates and exposure to high winds has also been known to cause tears to evaporate too quickly, leading to chronic dryness, as well.
Above all else, be sure to use lubricating eye drops and sunglasses that wrap around your head to protect your eyes from wind whenever possible. When in doubt, be sure to consult with an optometrist regarding the best drops to use with your eyes and the best contact lens for your needs. Never attempt to instill drops in the eyes while operating a vehicle. For more information regarding dry eye treatment in Land O’Lakes, please reach out to an eye doctor from the Florida Eye Center.
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