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A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology concluded that 10%-30% of the US population over 40 years old is diagnosed with a form of dry eye disease, with 3.2 million women and 1.68 million men over 50 also having DED. This disease is often associated with growing older, particularly in postmenopausal women. A multifactorial disease affecting the tears and ocular surface, DED results in a disturbance in vision, discomfort, and tear film instability. Patients are also at risk of obstruction of the ocular surface.
While it can be either chronic or temporary, DED can result from Bell’s palsy, rheumatoid arthritis, corneal and eyelid issues, diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren syndrome, and eye disease caused by thyroid issues. Common pharmacologic causes of DED include antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, beta-blockers, and diuretics. The environment can also attribute to DED – dry climates, not blinking regularly after staring at electronic screens for an extended period of time, smoke, and wind. Even laser eye surgery can cause the development of DED.
While DED can be uncomfortable, there are ways it can be prevented.
- Stay hydrated by drinking an abundance of water each day.
- Don’t forget to blink; if your job requires you to look at a screen for all day or most of the day, take breaks. Put your smartphone and/or tablet down for a bit when you’re at home.
- Research and talk to your doctor about nutritional supplements with essential fatty acids; these can help decrease your chances of developing DED.
- When you’re at home or work, increase the humidity (but not to the point where it makes you or others uncomfortable).
- When you’re outside, wear sunglasses to block out dry wind and the sun.
Talk to your pharmacist about which medicines can increase your risk of DED and how you can take preventative action. They can also inform you of treatment options for mild to moderate DED, as well as options for chronic and severe forms.