Dry eye affects an estimated 25 million people in the United States1 and is one of the most common reasons that people visit their eye care professional.2
Risk Factors and Symptoms
Dry eye can be aggravated by a number of external factors such as hot, dry or windy environments, high altitudes, heating, air conditioning, and smoke. Many people also find that their eyes become irritated when reading, working on a computer, or wearing contact lenses.3,4 Those taking certain medications for thyroid conditions, vitamin A deficiency, depression, or menopause may also experience dry eye. Anyone using artificial tears several times a day or on a regular basis should see an eye care professional about their symptoms. Left untreated, episodic dry eye can progress to a chronic condition.
Chronic dry eye occurs when eyes do not produce the right quantity or quality of tears. Women are more frequently affected than men, and chronic dry eye is often caused by hormonal changes due to aging and menopause or medical conditions — such as Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rosacea, sarcoidosis and Sjögren's syndrome.5,6 Symptoms of chronic dry eye can vary greatly from one person to the next, often fluctuating throughout the day, usually becoming worse later in the day. Symptoms may include itching, irritation, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, dryness, foreign body sensation and even excessive tearing. Chronic dry eye can be a progressive disease that, if left untreated, can lead to increased risk of infection or further vision problems.
Until recently, there was little that could be done to treat patients with chronic dry eye other than offer palliative therapies — artificial tears to temporarily relieve symptoms and strategies to modify lifestyle and environmental factors. All this has changed over the last decade as we have learned more about the complex pathophysiology of chronic dry eye, especially its inflammatory component. This in turn has led to the recent development of therapeutic approaches that target the underlying disease state. If you suffer from dry eye, talk to your eye care professional about treatment options.
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