We may find that the advent of this windy, cold, dry season can dehydrate us in various ways. The harsh weather can lead to chapped lips, and the development of tender, rashlike patches of dry skin on our knuckles and other areas. Though we may not give it much thought, our eyes can also become dehydrated very easily, leading to increased irritation and discomfort.
Even when we are finally shielded from the harsh winds, the comfort of warm enclosed spaces does not always help with restoring the moisture lost. With heating units turned up at work, at home, or even in the car, the air’s natural humidity can disappear completely, irritating your eyes. Staring at computers, television sets, and tablets for extended periods of time is a great contributor to dry eyes, because while we focus on these devices, we have a tendency to blink less. The combination of windy weather, dry heating, and frequent use of monitors create the perfect environment for the most common ocular problem in the world: dry eye syndrome.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome can develop when the quality or quantity of the protective and nourishing tear film on the surface of the eye has been damaged. Insufficient tear production and excessive evaporation of the tear film can both lead to a lack of moisture on the eye, drying out the corneas.
The most typical symptom of the syndrome is the horribly irritating feeling of having a speck of dust, or eyelash, in your eye, accompanied by the unpleasant burning, stinging sensation which is not relieved by frequent blinking. Vision may also become blurry, and the eyes may become sensitive to light. Paradoxically, sometimes dry eye syndrome leads to increased tear production, in response to the irritation. The symptoms tend to improve temporarily with blinking or keeping the eyes closed for a while, but dry eye syndrome is almost always a chronic problem that requires ongoing treatment.
Think of the eye as a bathtub: moisture is continuously deposited through the “tap” located on the upper portion of the eye where the tears are produced. This moisture is evenly distributed along the surface of the eye through blinking, and to keep from overflowing, some of the liquid is constantly drained through the tear ducts, similar to the drain in a tub. If something is getting in the way of proper tear production, or causes a significant amount of the moisture to evaporate, but the drainage does not cease, the “bathtub” will begin to run dry.
Restoring comfort and relief
There are several ways to hydrate dry eyes. One of the easiest ways to keep hydrated is by drinking lots of fluids, particularly when the weather is it is very dry or the heating is turned up. This will also aid the body’s natural tear production. The addition of a cold-water humidifier to your home will keep the air from getting too dry.
When the suffering begins, many people reach for the temporary solution of artificial tears, moistening gels, eye drops or mists, but these solutions are not always sufficient to restore the healthy tear film, eliminate the unpleasant symptoms and improve vision permanently. Some people have to apply eye drops 8-10 times a day– not only is this inconvenient but it can be quite pricey.
The most efficient, natural method of eliminating dry eye syndrome lies in preventing tears from draining away, by temporarily plugging up the tear ducts. FirstMed’s ophthalmologist is one of the very few doctors in all of Hungary who performs the safe, painless, and procedure of inserting punctal plugs.
During this procedure, tiny cylindrical plugs (2mm long, 0.4mm wide – much smaller than a grain of rice) are placed in the openings of the lower tear ducts in the inner corner of the eye to prevent drainage. The plugs are fully inserted into the puncta so they are not visible to the Patient or others. The extended duration collagen soft plugs last for a period of three months, after which they are completely absorbed by the body. If desired, a new pair can be inserted for another three months. Depending on the severity of Dry Eye Syndrome symptoms, eye drops may be initially necessary alongside the plugs, but once the drain is clogged, the “tub” will retain the moisture poured into it. The use of punctal plugs provides relief from the unpleasant symptoms when eye drops are no longer sufficient. By preventing tears from draining away, more moisture remains on the cornea, and eventually the use of eye drops may not even be necessary. Still, the upper tear ducts will remain open and functioning as before to drain the excess tear products.
After an eye examination by your ophthalmologist, the plugs can be inserted without pain, in less than a minute. Relief from symptoms can be expected within a day or two. After a day or two at most, you shouldn’t even be able to feel the plugs and the relief from dry eye syndrome symptoms. Just make sure not to rub your eyes too much during the first two days, because that can cause the plugs can become dislodged!
If the plugs do not prove to be comfortable, they can be easily removed by being flushed from the tear ducts.
· Do not aim heating units, including those in the car, directly at your face because these can dry your eyes excessively.
· Ventilate often and mind the humidity level in your home.
· At work look away from the screen every 20 minutes for a few seconds at a time, blinking repeatedly.
· Drink plenty of water.
· Do not use eye drops that constrict the blood vessels of the eye or contain cortisone because these may exacerbate the problem.
· Do not smoke, especially not in an enclosed space.