Do your eyes burn, sting and feel irritated? If so, you may have Chronic Dry Eye (CDE). And you're not alone millions of Americans have dry eyes. CDE is especially common among women, and the condition worsens with age.
But don't despair, there are lots of ways you can show your eyes the love they need, so you can do all the things you enjoy.
Why Are Women at Higher Risk?
CDE can affect anyone at any age, especially people who spend several hours each day using digital devices. But research shows twice as many women as men age 50 and older experience dry eye problems.
It's believed hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and menopause make women more susceptible to CDE than men and use of oral contraceptive or hormone replacement therapy may also play a role. Indeed, most though not all cases of dry eye in women are found after menopause.
Hormones aren't the only triggers that can lead to dry eye in women. Contact lens wear, ocular surgery, and modern-day stressors such as prolonged digital device and computer use are common dry eye risk factors as well. Certain medications as well as systemic diseases are also associated with dry eye.
In short, many women are subject to more than one of the many risk factors associated with CDE. And, when this happens and your eye is placed under enough stress, your body's built-in immune system is likely to respond with inflammation. Ironically, inflammation is your body's way of protecting itself. But with CDE, it's too much of a good thing because the inflammation triggers more inflammation.
How Does CDE Affect Daily Life?
It's likely you have CDE if you routinely experience these symptoms:
• Your eyes feel dry, itchy or gritty
• Your eyes burn, sting or get red easily
• It feels like something is "in" your eyes
• Your vision is blurry using digital devices
CDE can interfere with your daily routine and things you love to do, such as:
• Browsing the web and shopping online
• "Binge watching" movies or TV shows
• Reading on a digital device
• Enjoying the outdoors
How Can I Get Relief?
Many women who experience dry eyes have tried to find relief with artificial tear products. Indeed, these drops are typically one of the first treatments recommended for CDE symptoms and you can find them almost anywhere. The problem with artificial tears is that the effects are only temporary.
The first step to getting relief from CDE is to see your eye doctor for a thorough dry eye evaluation.
Though there's no cure for CDE, the condition can be successfully managed with a customized treatment plan that may include:
• Eyelid hygiene measures
• Anti-inflammatory medication
• In-office procedures to express eyelid glands
• Artificial tears
Your eye doctor also may recommend daily use of a prescription eye drop medication such as Xiidra, which has been proven successful at reducing the signs and symptoms of CDE.
Tips for Living with CDE
In addition to following your doctor's recommendations for managing CDE, other steps you can take to help make your eyes more comfortable include:
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can increase your risk of dry eyes.
- Turn off your ceiling fan. Fast-circulating air can dry out your eyes even while you sleep.
- Take frequent breaks from your digital devices. Look away from your screen at least every 20 minutes and blink often to remoisten your eyes.
- Take an omega-3 supplement. A diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids can help ease dry eye symptoms.
- Use a humidifier in your home and office space during winter or if you live in a dry climate.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect your eyes from drying breezes.
- Get plenty of sleep. Inadequate sleep increases your risk of CDE.