Q: Can dry eyes affect how I see?
A: Yes! The cornea accounts for approximately two thirds of the focusing power of your eye. When the tear film and ocular surface dries out the cornea no longer forms a smooth refractive interface and can not properly focus light. This is why many people with dry eye report blurred vision that comes and goes with dryness. In severe untreated cases dry eye can cause also cause corneal scarring and lead to permanent decreases in vision. Treating dry eye can provide more stable and clear vision and prevent more serious complications.
Q: Will I always have dry eye?
A: For some people dry eye is episodic or temporary due to external factors such as wind, air conditioning or medications; however, for a majority of people dry eye is chronic. While symptoms may come and go in intensity, many people will need to commit to some form of dry eye treatment for the rest of their life. Fortunately with appropriate treatment dry eye symptoms can be managed so they do not affect your quality of life.
Q: How can my eyes be dry if they are often watery?
A: Although this seems counter-intuitive, watering is a common symptom of dry eye. When the ocular surface dries up reflex tearing is triggered, leading to periods of excessive tearing for some people. Dry eye treatment can prevent reflex tearing from happening.
Q: Why don’t eyecare professionals recommend Visine and other over the counter red eye drops?
A: These contain vasoconstrictors, which shrink the normal blood vessels in the whites of your eyes to make them less red. Vasoconstrictors are actually approved for eye allergies rather than dry eye, and while they do make your eyes look whiter they don’t treat the underlying cause of your dry eye. When used regularly vasoconstrictors can also cause rebound redness; when the drops wear off the blood vessels dilate and your eyes become even more red, causing more long term irritation than they prevent. Seeing your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam allows us to diagnose the reason for your red eyes, and recommend appropriate drops to treat the cause.
Q: I feel stabbing pains in my eyes, could it really be just dry eye?
A: There are many causes for eye pain and if you are experiencing pain you should be seen for a comprehensive eye examination to determine the cause. But the answer is often yes! Dry eye is one of the most common causes of eye pain. Dry eye can damage the cornea and cause increased corneal nerve sensitivity. The cornea has a very high density of nerve endings, and if these nerves become sensitized then slight irritations such as wind, prolonged screen work, or even instillation of artificial tears can cause burning, stinging or even stabbing pains when the corneal nerves fire.