Understanding and Managing Dry Eyes: July is Dry Eye Awareness Month

July is more than just fireworks and barbecues—it’s also Dry Eye Awareness Month, a time dedicated to educating ourselves about a common yet often overlooked eye condition. Dry eye syndrome affects millions worldwide, causing discomfort and affecting daily life. Whether you’re experiencing symptoms or want to learn more to help a loved one, here’s everything you need to know about dry eyes, its causes, and practical tips for relief.

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Photo by Karolina Kaboompics

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or when tears evaporate too quickly. Tears are essential for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. When the quantity or quality of tears fails to keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated, dry eye syndrome can result.

Causes of Dry Eyes

Several factors can contribute to dry eyes, including:

  • Age: Dry eyes are more common as we get older, especially in individuals over 50.
  • Environmental Factors: Exposure to wind, smoke, or dry air can increase tear evaporation and contribute to dryness.
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions like arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid disorders can affect tear production.
  • Medications: Antihistamines, decongestants, and certain antidepressants can reduce tear production.
  • Screen Time: Extended use of digital devices can lead to decreased blinking and increased evaporation of tears.
  • Contact Lenses: Improper use or wearing contact lenses for extended periods can contribute to dry eyes.

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Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome

Recognizing the symptoms of dry eyes can help in seeking appropriate treatment:

  • Persistent dryness, itching, or a gritty sensation in the eyes.
  • Redness and irritation.
  • Blurred vision, particularly when reading or using digital screens.
  • Sensitivity to light.
  • Eye fatigue or discomfort after prolonged periods of visual tasks.

Managing Dry Eyes

While dry eye syndrome can be chronic, several strategies can help alleviate symptoms and improve eye comfort:

  • Use Artificial Tears: Over-the-counter artificial tears can provide relief by supplementing natural tear production.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help maintain overall hydration, which can benefit tear production.
  • Blink Regularly: Remember to blink consciously, especially when using digital devices, to spread tears evenly over the eye’s surface.
  • Take Breaks: Practice the 20-20-20 rule—every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds—to reduce eye strain.
  • Protect Your Eyes: Wear sunglasses outdoors to shield your eyes from wind and sun exposure, which can exacerbate dryness.
  • Adjust Your Environment: Use a humidifier to add moisture to dry indoor air, particularly during colder months.
  • Consult Your Eye Care Professional: If symptoms persist or worsen, schedule an appointment with an eye care specialist for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

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This Dry Eye Awareness Month, take proactive steps to prioritize your eye health with Zenni. Whether you’re managing chronic dry eyes or seeking preventive measures, understanding the causes and symptoms is the first step towards relief. By incorporating simple lifestyle adjustments and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can ensure that your eyes stay comfortable and healthy year-round. Remember, your vision is precious—let’s work together to keep it clear and comfortable!

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Alyssa Buchanan

Dr. Alyssa Buchanan is an optometrist based in Lubbock, Texas. She received her doctorate from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, and has practiced in various settings including Fort Cavazos where she provided eye care for deploying soldiers. Dr. Buchanan has since received her Master’s degree in Healthcare Administration and continues to strive to provide top-notch eyecare and make a meaningful impact in the eyecare industry.