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Dry and Itchy Eyes This Winter?

A Discussion about Dry Eye with Dr. Lorena Castaneda  of Optomedica Eye Consultants

Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe during thewinter months?

Yes. Cold weather and dry air can make this time of the year uncomfortable for the eyes. Most patients associate the winter time with wet weather and not with dry and windy conditions which, tend to be very irritating to the eyes. This is especially true in patients who wear contact lenses or take certain type of medications that can also cause dryness of the eyes. Indoor conditions also change during winter time. The moisture in the air during the winter times is normally reduced and with the indoor heating, this is normally reduced even further. This means that the inside air is at times, dryer and more irritating than the outside air.

When should someone come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms?

One should see their eye doctor in Northwest Houston for Dry Eyes as soon as symptoms develop. Often the problem compounds itself if not treated. If someone's eyes are dry and not treated, they are more likely to rub their eyes and cause more irritation and scratch their eyes, and give themselves an infection, or create a more severe or acute problem. Some of the symptoms to watch for are foreign body or “sandy” sensation in the eyes, watery eyes, burning, and blurred vision

What do you check in order to assess whether a patient is suffering from Dry Eyes?

Several tests are used to check for dry eyes. I regularly check for the quantity of the tears, the evaporation rate of the tears (how fast the tears evaporate from the surface of the eye after a blink) and also for chronic inflammation which could cause poor quality of tears.

What are the common treatments that you use in order to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?

Initially, I like to use products such as non­preserved artificial tears and ophthalmic ointments. I also pay close attention to any eyelid margin conditions that need to be corrected in order to have better quality of tears. I then institute an adequate treatment for that which could be a combination of eyelid hygiene and/or antibiotics. There are other alternatives for a more resistant type of dry eye syndromes, such as anti­inflammatory drops and Restasis which is a medical treatment we normally recommend to increase the amount of tears produced by the eyes.

My eyes frequently are overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?

Watery eyes is a symptom of dry eye syndrome. A good evaluation should be carried out to determine the cause of overly watery eyes and to develop a good treatment plan to not only make the eyes more comfortable, but to protect them for further damage from the dry eye syndrome.

Are there certain people that are more prone to having Dry Eyes?

Yes. Patients who wear contact lenses are more prone to having dry eyes because of the lenses themselves. All contact lenses, particularly soft lenses are hydrophylic in nature. What this means is that they need a “wet” environment to function properly. While in the eyes, the contact lenses must draw the moisture from the eye's surface which can create problems if it is dry.

Patients who take certain types of medications which tend to dry their eyes such as antihistamines, birth control pills, and anti­anxiety/antidepressant medications. Many conditions such as arthritis and thyroid disease can also cause dry eyes.

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

The most important thing is to have regular checkups with their optometrist in Katy or Northwest Houston, TX to make sure their eyes are seeing well and are also healthy. There are also other things they may be doing to improve any irritation and discomfort from dry eyes such as using non­preserved artificial tears on a regular basis, wraparound sunglasses, increase blinking while at the computer or reading so that the eyes do not dry as much or avoid sitting underneath a fan.