Red and sore eyes?

It is the dry season, with dust and sand blowing all over everything.

Usually the change of season from winter to summer and vice versa is allergy and sinus season for most of us.  Together with air pollution, this is generally not the most comfortable for our eyes.

People in general complain of a sandy, gritty feeling in their eyes. This is directly related to dry eye syndrome. Other symptoms include irritation, redness, discharge, easily fatigued eyes even blurry vision and constant tearing.

Symptoms may also include pain, pressure or light sensitivity.  The condition can vary from mild to severe and can even become chronic.

It affects between 5 to 45% of people at some stage of their lives.

What is dry eye syndrome?
Any abnormality in any of the three layers of the tears produces an instability in the tear film.  The tear layer consists of three layers: the musin layer, the aqueous layer and an oil layer.

Your tear layer is very important to keep the cornea healthy and also to wash away debris or bacteria that enter your eye. And believe it or not, it also helps with refraction of light to give you good clear vision.

Other causes
It can result from pregnancy, allergies, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Lazik surgery , Vitamine A Deficiency or certain medication such as: antihistamines, blood pressure medication, hormone replacement therapy and antidepressants.

What to do?
Generally a good tear enhancer used on a fairly regular basis should solve the problem. Ask your doctor, optometrist or pharmacist.

Never rub your eyes: this makes the cornea thinner and can cause more serious problems.

Put a heat pad (warm tea bags) on your eyes for two minutes and massage your eyelids from the outside to your nose. (Like when ladies apply eye cream.)

Cleaning of the eye lids: Very often a patient can have what is called blepharitis (eye lid infection). Ask your optometrist about the necessary treatment.

Make use of omega 3 supplements or flaxeedoil capsules.Vitamins C, E and B vitamins can also be added.

Staring at a computer doesn’t help, as we tend to “forget” to blink, the tearlayer evaporates, causing dry irritable eyes – make sure that you actively blink on a regular basis and take regular breaks.

If your eyes are not better within one week or worsen, you should consult your doctor or optometrist.Certain tests can be done to see which layer of the tear quality is deficient and to determine the cause – the optometrist can then suggest the drops for that specific deficiency to be treated.

Written by Madeleine Nilsen B.Optom.RAU (SA). CAZ (Optom Institute). For any queries contact Nilsen Optometrist 012 2591200 or  079 202 8057.

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