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Dry Eyes Consultation With Dr. Audrey Farnsworth

We spoke with Dr. Audrey Farnsworth of Battle Creek Eye Clinic, a dry eye expert in Battle Creek, MI, to find out what can be done about this eye health problem.

Is it true that Dry Eye Symptoms seem to be more severe in the winter than in the warmer spring and summer months?

Yes, dry eye syndrome is common in the winter because of cold, dry outdoor air and dry indoor heat.  Spring and summer weather brings warmer, humid air, so dry eye symptoms typically lessen. Although, severe dry eye syndrome sufferers may have symptoms year round especially if they have certain medical conditions, take certain medications, or are subject to other external sources of dry eye.  Dry eye can typically be a chronic condition.

When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of this problem yourself?

Anyone who has tried artificial tears and hasn't found relief to their dry eye symptoms should schedule an appointment with their local optometrist in Marshall or Battle Creek, MI

What is the examination like to determine whether someone is suffering from Dry Eyes?

A dry eye workup by an optometrist starts with a good history of symptoms being experienced by the dry eye syndrome sufferer, but also addresses any possible associated conditions that may make an individual more likely to develop tear film abnormalities.  The examination itself includes a close evaluation of the eyes and tear film. A Tear Break up Time (TBUT) test, which measures the tear stability, will be done.
Different stains, such as fluorescein, Rose Bengal, or Lissamine Green may be put into the eyes to address the quantity of tears as well.  A Schirmer test may also be done.  This test involves putting small strips at the base of an individual's eyelids to see how much tears are produced in a short period of time.

I have a friend in whose eyes are frequently overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?

Actually, excessive watering of an individual’s eyes can be a very common symptom of Dry Eye.  The eyes are overcompensating for the dryness, and produce a lot of watering, or reflex tearing.

What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?

Typical treatments for dry eye include ocular hygiene (daily lid scrubs), topical treatment (tear supplements), punctual occlusion (plugging the primary tear ducts to maintain more tears on the ocular surface), and prescription therapy such as Restasis.  Restasis stimulates the lacrimal glands to produce more tears, and works well if lack of tear production is the main cause of the dry eye syndrome.

Supportive therapy through nutrition also plays a big role in a person's susceptibility to dry eye syndrome.  Vitamin supplements, such as Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil have shown to reduce inflammation, enhance tear production, and support the eye's oily outer layer of the tears; therefore, a diet that includes them tends to decrease dry eye symptoms.

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Yes, for example, women typically suffer more from dry eye than men do.  This is mostly due to the different hormone changes women undergo.  Certain medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, and antidepressants can all have a tendency to reduce tear production.  Medical conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, Sjogrens Syndrome, and thyroid problems can also have the side effect of dry eye syndrome.  Long-term contact lens use, and previous eye surgery, such as LASIK, may also temporarily reduce tear production.

Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?

In order to avoid dry eye issues, an individual should report any persistent symptoms to their Optometrist, especially if artificial tears are not working to reduce symptoms.  That way proper treatment can be initiated as early as possible to prevent possible effects of severe dry eye later on, which may include sight threatening corneal infections.