The state of Arizona typically has dry weather, so much so that when heatwaves peak, the entire state just feels scorching. Its climate and humidity are part of the reason that many Arizonians are suffering from the dry eye syndrome. Here is everything you need to know about it.
What is dry eye syndrome?
The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes such as “a condition in which a person doesn’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision.” This is a common and chronic problem that typically manifests in older adults.
If you think tears are only expressions of sadness, think again. They are actually necessary to keep your cornea properly lubricated. When the eyes are properly lubricated, it washes away foreign materials in the eye, reduces the risk of eye infection, and keeps the surface of the eye clear and smooth. Excess tears should be drained in the inner corners of the eyelids so that people don’t have to walk all day with tears streaking down their cheeks. In cases of dry eye syndrome, however, the individual cannot produce enough tears.
Most people who experience dry eye syndrome have inadequate tears, which means that their tear glands are not functioning properly. This is such the case for older people, whose tear production tends to reduce as they age. On the other hand, some people who experience this condition have poor quality of tears.
When we say poor quality of tears, this means that the three layers of tears are present. These layers are oil, water, and mucus. All three have different functions. As AOA says, “Each component protects and nourishes the front surface of the eye. A smooth oil layer helps prevent evaporation of the water layer, while the mucin layer spreads the tears evenly. If the tears evaporate too quickly or do not spread evenly,” the symptoms of the condition are developed.
How does humidity play into this?
The AOA says that dry and windy climates can “decrease tear volume due to increased evaporation.” This means that the moisture in the eyes tend to evaporate faster than they can be replaced. Since Arizona has a very dry and warm climate, these symptoms are even more felt by Arizonians.
It’s not just out in the wild, however. Humidity is also an issue when it comes to spaces that control their humidity levels, such as department stores, offices, and supermarkets. If you find yourself tearing up when entering one of these controlled environments, then you may have dry eye syndrome.
If you have dry eye syndrome, then you may experience the following sensations: eye irritation and/or redness; feeling like something is stuck in your eyes or as if there is something gritty inside the eyes; excess watering of the eye; vision loss; blurred vision; and generally, an uncomfortable feeling in your eyes.
How can I prevent dry eyes?
Thankfully, it is very easy to improve moisture in your eyes. The first step to getting relief is understanding what is causing your symptoms. Here are some ideas:
- Environmental factors
If your dry eyes are caused by humidity in the room, then you can get a humidifier. This will create water vapor in the atmosphere and add moisture to the air. This, in turn, will make your eyes feel more comfortable.
Another thing that you can do is to wear proper eyewear to protect your eyes on windy days. Many people like to drive with the windows down on a sunny day, or even with the top down if they’re riding a convertible. Even if you are just on a bike or a motorcycle, a pair of sunglasses can protect your eyes both from the wind and the sun.
Lastly, stop smoking and avoid smoke altogether. Some people who wear contact lenses can attest how cigarette smoke can make their eyes feel drier; as a result, the contact lenses would become more uncomfortable. Avoid staying in smoke-infested areas as well.
- Eat well
Funny enough, even your tear production can benefit from a balanced meal. Eating a lot of omega-3 fatty acids can help you feel relief from dry eye syndrome since it can reduce eye inflammation. Once the inflammation subsides, then you will have more tear production and better quality tears.
You can go for straightforward omega-3 supplements, or even indulge in foods that are rich in the nutrients such as fatty fish, eggs, chia seeds, and soybean oil.
- Get eye drops, ointments, and artificial tears
If is advisable that you seek medical advice even before the discomfort reaches really insane levels. There are many eye drops, artificial tears, and ointments that are available over-the-counter. The purpose of these products is to lubricate your eyes in case you are not producing enough tears. However, consulting a doctor before getting over-the-counter eye drops or artificial tears is more advisable, as a doctor will be able to tell you what is causing your symptoms in the first place. Once you know your triggers, you will be advised on how to treat them properly.
- Rest your eyes
Finally, rest your eyes! Activities, like watching television and being in front of a computer screen all day, can trigger dry eyes. If your eyes are feeling tired — close them. You can also follow the 20-20-20 rule: take a break every 20 minutes, look at something green that is 20 feet away from you, and look at it for 20 seconds. You will see how your eyes’ level of comfort will improve after that.
Now that you know what could be possibly causing your dry eye syndrome, you also know how to prevent it from worsening. If your eyes are feeling a sense of discomfort, head over to Arizona Retinal Specialists. Our experts are here to ensure that your eyes are in peak condition.