Dry Eye Syndrome is a widespread problem, especially in Hampton Roads. Dry Eyes can affect men and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds. We sat down with Dr. Jessica Lin to discuss Dry Eye Syndrome. If you don't already know Dr. Lin, she is an excellent optometrist, co-owner of Coastal Vision, and a mother of a beautiful newborn girl. In practice, she takes a special interest in the diagnosis and treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome, and how can someone be certain they are experiencing it?
Dr. Lin: Dry Eye Syndrome is a term used to describe a group of inflammatory diseases of the tears and ocular surface that ultimately results in symptoms of discomfort, visual disturbance, and tear film instability. These, in turn, can lead to potential damage to the actual eye surface. These groups of conditions result from inadequate wetting and lubrication of the eye which perpetuates more ocular surface inflammation and worsens the dry eye cycle.
While millions of people worldwide experience dry eye syndrome, it is not always easy to diagnose and can easily be mistaken for other conditions such as infections and allergies. Problematic dry eyes are one of the most common problems reported to eye doctors. The difficulty in accurately identifying signs and symptoms specific to dry eye stems from the overlapping potential causes, whether genetic, systemic, environmental, and/or behavioral. Common symptoms of dry eyes may include blurred or variable vision, sensitivity to light, dryness, burning or stinging, grittiness or foreign body sensations, tried eyes, general complaints of discomfort, or contact lens intolerance. Occasionally, the dry eye patient may experience a paradoxical excess or “reflex” tearing caused by the underlying eye surface irritation. However, in many early cases, signs of early dry eye are measured and identified during a comprehensive eye exam although no symptoms may yet be reported by the patient. Symptoms can vary with seasons, time of day, and occupational/recreational activities. If any of these symptoms are experienced, or there is a suspicion of dry eyes, schedule either a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor, or a dry eye evaluation, a more specific type of exam, with Dr. Lin.
Is DES more prevalent in some individuals more than others? Why?
Dr.Lin: It has been estimated that 20-30% or more of the US population suffers from dry eye; that’s about an estimated 25 million people. At least six million women and three million men in the US have advanced to the moderate to severe level. Anyone can experience dry eye syndrome, but the condition is more common in older individuals as well as in females more so than in males, almost a 2-3 times greater incidence. This is due to more hormonal effects, in addition to the fact that other systemic disorders like thyroid dysfunction and other auto-immune/inflammatory conditions, are also more commonly diagnosed in females. Research indicates that nearly 75% of people over age 65 will suffer from dry eye and with increase prevalence of severity. Other common causes that may contribute include allergies, poor diet, inadequate water intake, excessive hot or cold environments, smoke and pollution. Contact lens use and the high prevalence of digital device usage (computers, tablets, phones) are two of the most significant reasons why we see more and more dry eye prevalence. Other contributing factors include health status such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus, chemo treatments, acne rosacea, and any history of eye surgery (LASIK, cataract). In addition, certain medications can cause dry eye symptoms such as antidepressants, antihistamines, decongestants, acne treatments, diuretics, and some blood pressure medications.