As the title indicates, there are two types of dry eye: Mild and Chronic, and as their names indicate, one is much nicer than the other. According to a recent study by Harris Interactive and sponsored by Allergan, nearly half of US adults (48%) experienced dry eye symptoms regularly. Half of all women (52%) experienced one or more symptoms regularly and; in addition, 2 in 5 women aged 45 to 54 years who suffered from dry eye experienced blurred vision.
The problem with dry eye symptoms – as with many other diseases – is that sufferers tend to ignore their discomfort until it impedes their ability to function properly. Only then do they go see a doctor. According to the same study, a whopping 69% of US adults who experienced one or more dry eye symptoms had not visited an eye care professional to treat symptoms. It does not help that symptoms take time to manifest. Redness, temporary inflammation and itchy eyes are often discarded as allergy symptoms or eye fatigue.
It all started with bloodshot eyes…
If you experience bloodshot eyes and inflammation after watching TV or working in front of a screen for too long, simply take a break from these activities and see if your eyes go back to normal. If they don’t and the inflammation is persistent, it might mean that the eye is not receiving proper lubrication and the surface of the eye is drying up. If left untreated, the eye will inevitably become drier and the most common dry eye symptoms will start to show.
The first thing you need to do is get a proper eye exam to determine if you are suffering from dry eye disease. If you are diagnosed with mild dry eye you will likely receive tear drops to help with your symptoms – use them sparingly. Prolonged use of tear drops basically tells your eye “hey, you don’t need to produce tears anymore because I got that covered” and it will affect your moisture balance, increasing your symptoms. The same goes for Visine-type products, many over-the counter products contain tetrahydrozoline or naphazoline, which act as vasoconstrictors shrinking the outer blood vessels in the white parts of your eye and depriving it of oxygen, once you stop with the drops they send a signal to your brain asking for more oxygen, enlarging the blood vessels and in turn they make your eyes redder than before – this is known as “Rebound Effect”.
Symptoms are current and long lasting…
Chronic dry eye is debilitating. Your eyes are burning, itching, irritated, they are light-sensitive, crusty, and in some cases you can’t even keep your eyes open long enough to work or drive; needless to say, your quality of life decreases drastically. The symptoms severity depends greatly on medication, age, environmental factors, and hormone balances. This makes it an ongoing battle with symptoms flaring up when you think relief has been found. Many sufferers find the condition frustrating since it involves constant day-to-day management.
Because tears’ main functions besides lubrication is to protect your eyes from bacteria and dust, having chronic dry eye means your eyes are exposed to infection and you need to clean them daily in order to relieve some symptoms.
Even though we have listed the main differences between mild and chronic dry eye, a proper diagnostic test – like the TearLab osmolarity test– should tell you exactly how mild or how severe your symptoms are. This is crucial as each eye is different and not all patients respond the same to treatment options.
What do you think?
Do you suffer from chronic dry eye? We would love to hear about your experiences and how you manage your symptoms. Feel free use the comment box below or join our forum.