Do your eyes ever feel tired, irritated, burning, or teary (and not from watching a sad movie?). You’re not alone. Dry eye is a very common problem, affecting more than 25 million people, especially among middle-aged women and older adults. While dry eye may only be an irritation for some people, it can be a severe, debilitating problem for others. Dry eye is usually a chronic condition.
One reason dry eye is on the rise is our increased screen time. Many of us spend hours each day looking at a computer screen, tablet, or smartphone, and you may notice that your eyes feel tired after those long stretches of time. Dry eye also can be caused by a windy environment, allergies, contact lens use, and age. Although studies generally point to dry eye in middle-aged or older patients, more recent work has even found a growth in dry eye among adults in their 20s and 30s—most likely due to the use of electronic devices.
The bottom line: Both your older loved one, and you as a caregiver, may experience dry eye.
Here are 4 tips to help if you have or your loved one has dry eye:
- Start with over-the-counter artificial tears. There are a number of over-the-counter artificial tears designed for dry eye at your local pharmacy, and many of them are effective. If you can afford them, buy ones that are preservative-free, especially if you use the tears frequently. If you find yourself using the tears more than four times a day, you should see an eye doctor for help.
- Try some self-care. Some self-care remedies to soothe your dry eyes include warm compresses or gently washing your eyelids daily, making sure to look away from the screen and blink regularly, wearing sunglasses in windy environments, and not letting direct air reach your face from sources like fans and car air conditioning. An eyelid wash or scrub can help clear up a condition called blepharitis that commonly contributes to dry eye. You can find videos on YouTube that explain how to commonly and safely perform an eyelid wash or scrub. There also are over-the-counter products that help.
- Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Omega 3s, found naturally in foods like salmon and walnuts, omega 3 fatty acids are said to help decrease inflammation in the body. These fatty acids also can benefit the look and health of your hair and skin. Similarly, more and more eye doctors recommend omega 3 supplementation to help your ocular surface health. That can help reduce your dry eye symptoms. However, be patient, as it doesn’t happen right away. Not all patients will notice a difference, either.
- Experiment with different contact lenses. If you use contacts and find dry eye increasing over time, your eye doctor can likely recommend a switch in lenses that could lessen dry eye. For instance, daily contacts often help lessen dry eye symptoms. Your eye doctor also should know about ever-changing contact lens technology that addresses dry eye. Make sure to remove your contact lenses every day to give your eyes a rest.
- Find an eye doctor who will partner with you or your loved one to improve dry eye symptoms. Improving dry eye symptoms isn’t just about your own comfort. Better control of dry eye and the ocular surface actually can make a difference during eye surgeries such as cataract surgery. An eye doctor who is committed to helping patients with dry eye can make all the difference in your quality of life. Plus, an eye doctor who enjoys helping dry eye patients will help find the right treatment for you, be it prescription drops, a device that stimulates tear production through the nose (you read that right!), or treatments that help improve the health and secretions of the eyelids.
One more bonus reason to see an eye doctor if your dry eye persists: Dry eye is sometimes a sign of systemic disease, such as Sjögren’s syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis. If this applies to you, an astute eye doctor will refer you for the right testing to get further help.
Call Secure Aging to Help Your Older Loved One Lead a Better Life
At Secure Aging in Bradenton, we transform the weight of the world into a sigh of relief for our senior clients and their concerned family members. We can help your older loved one not fall prey to the financial scams and help them obtain better care. The mission of Secure Aging is to protect and preserve our client’s independence and dignity through careful and thoughtful financial and care management. As our clients age, it is their desire to remain independent and age with dignity. Our services protect our clients from talented con artists looking to exploit and deplete the financial resources of our vulnerable seniors. Secure Aging helps families in Manatee County and Sarasota County and in and around the communities of Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Ellenton, Holmes Beach, Lakewood Ranch, Longboat Key, Myakka City, Palmetto, Parrish, and Sarasota. Call us at 941-761-9338, or visit us online at www.secureaging.com.