July is National Dry Eye Disease Awareness Month!

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Have you heard? July is dry eye disease awareness month! Dry eye disease is one of the most common ocular problems affecting the general population today. In fact, more than 40 million people in the USA suffer from the sometimes debilitating problem. Additionally, less than 5% of the dry eye disease patient population has been properly diagnosed and treated, according to HealthCare Maintenance Organizations data.


Depending on the causes of dry eye, your doctor may use various approaches to relieve the symptoms.


Dry eye can be managed as an ongoing condition. The first priority is to determine if a disease is the underlying cause of the dry eye (such as Sjögren’s syndrome or lacrimal and meibomian gland dysfunction). If it is, then the underlying disease needs to be treated.


If dry eye results from taking a medication, your doctor may recommend switching to a medication that does not cause the dry eye side effect.


If contact lens wear is the problem, your eye care practitioner may recommend another type of lens or reducing the number of hours you wear your lenses. In the case of severe dry eye, your physician may advise you not to wear contact lenses at all.


Some patients also have the option to plug the drainage holes, small circular openings at the inner corners of the eyelids where tears drain from the eye into the nose. Lacrimal plugs, also called punctal plugs, can be inserted painlessly by an eye care professional. The patient usually does not feel them. These plugs are made of silicone or collagen, are reversible, and are a temporary measure. In severe cases, permanent plugs may be considered.


In some cases, a simple surgery, called punctal cautery, is recommended to permanently close the drainage holes. The procedure helps keep the limited volume of tears on the eye for a longer period of time.


Many patients that suffer from dry eye benefit from supplements or dietary sources (such as tuna fish) or omega-3 fatty acids (especially DHA and EPA) which may decrease symptoms of irritation. The use and dosage of nutritional supplements and vitamins should be discussed with your doctor.


If you’re experiencing symptoms of dry eye disease, such as dryness, soreness, burning, grittiness or eye fatigue, schedule a consultation with one of our expert eye care physicians to discuss your options. Call Virginia Beach Eye Center at 757-481-5555.