Not a dry eye in the house
As you browse this site, you will notice that I am a fan of having a humidifier in the bedroom.
They are particularly useful for relieving nasal problems such as:
- Congestion in babies (so everybody gets a good night’s sleep!);
- The symptoms of the common cold;
- Snoring and snuffling; and
- Dry and inflamed membranes, which can lead to nose bleeds.
However, they don’t just soothe dry, sore noses – they can also be useful if you suffer from dry, sore eyes.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
As the name suggests, Dry Eye occurs when there is a problem with the tear film which protects the eyeballs.
Each time you blink, you are distributing tear film across the surface of your eyes. This lubrication helps to remove any irritants and provides protection from bacteria and infection.
Dry Eye Syndrome may develop due to a blockage in the glands which produce tear film.
As a result, you may notice a stinging, burning, or gritty sensation in the eye (and yes, it can occur in only one eye); your eyelids may feel heavy, and at times your eye may water excessively, although mostly it will feel dry and sore.
If left untreated, Dry Eye can cause problems such as an increased sensitivity to light, blurring, and other visual disturbances.
While Dry Eye is more likely to develop in people over 50, it can become a problem at any age. There is an increased risk of it occurring, if you have been:
- In a dry, windy or smoky environment – eg a heated office in winter, or outdoors on a windy day;
- Diagnosed with diabetes, lupus, arthritis or a thyroid disorder;
- Taking certain medications – such as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), antihistamines or antidepressants.
Preventing Dry Eye
In addition to using a humidifier, there are other steps you can take to avoid the discomfort of dry eye, such as:
- Cutting back on screen time;
- Regularly taking a break from tasks which require prolonged focus (eg shooting sports, needlework);
- Making a point of blinking frequently, to encourage lubrication in your eyes.
Up until recently, treatment for Dry Eye has mostly relied on the use of eye drops, gels and ointment, however there is a new treatment available for those experiencing ongoing problems – Intense Pulsed Light therapy or IPL.
Originally used by dermatologists to treat the red, inflamed skin of acne and rosacea, IPL has now been found to be useful in relieving the pain and inflammation of Dry Eye. IPL works by stimulating the glands which produce the tear film, and/or clearing any blockages.
As Intense Pulsed Light therapy has only recently been introduced as a treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome, it is not yet widely available.
However, if this is an option you would like to pursue, the number of optometry clinics with the necessary equipment to provide IPL, is growing all the time and can usually be identified with an internet search.