|Chronic Dry Eye – A New Treatment|
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic dry eye disease, a condition in which the eye does not produce adequate quantity
or quality of tears. While the condition occurs in both men and women, it is much more common in women. Over 3 million women
in the United States alone — or 1 in 12 — over the age of 50 suffer from chronic dry eye. Risk factors for this condition include hormonal changes, autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, lupus
and Sjogren's ("SHOW-grins") syndrome.
Excessive tearing may seem to be an unusual symptom for chronic dry eye syndrome
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Chronic dry eye is most common in post-menopausal women because of the hormonal changes associated with aging. Testosterone plays a critical role in maintaining the tear-making lacrimal gland. As women grow older, their production of testosterone declines, making the lacrimal gland more susceptible to inflammation. If the lacrimal gland becomes inflamed, reduced tear production may result.
Any condition that damages the lacrimal gland can decrease tear production. Sjogren's syndrome is a chronic disease in which white blood cells attack the moisture-producing glands. The classic symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth, but it is a systemic disease, affecting many of
It is important to realize that environmental, occupational, and lifestyle factors, such as smoke, dry air, dust, the wearing of contact lenses for extended periods of time, and prolonged computer use, can all intensify the symptoms of chronic dry eye disease.
Reducing The Symptoms of Dry Eye
Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that cannot be cured, but the accompanying dryness, scratching and burning can be managed. Ultraviolet (UV) blocking sunglasses can help reduce irritation from sun exposure and help shield your eyes from the effects
Prescription Therapy For Dry Eyes – Restasis
An FDA-approved eye drop called Restasis actually helps increase natural tear production, in patients with dry eye disease. The effect of Restasis is not seen immediately, but after a period of regular use, many patients experience a significant improvement in natural tear production and a reduction in their symptoms.
Your eye doctor will normally prescribe Restasis drops to be used once or twice per day. There can be some local irritation upon instillation but the drops are well tolerated by the majority of patients. Some patients may require the addition of lubricant eye drops along with their Restasis therapy but this becomes less necessary as the ability to produce natural tears increases. If your eye doctor determines that Restasis therapy is indicated, many major health insurance companies now provide coverage. Consult your particular carrier for the most up-to-date information.
A Word Of Caution – Severe dry-eye cases, if left untreated, can lead to scarring or even ulceration of the cornea and loss of vision. If you have persistently dry eyes, it is wise to seek the advice of your eye doctor. Never change or discontinue medications without checking with your doctor. If you are considering LASER vision correction, it is important that you first seek treatment for any dry eye symptoms.