Dry and Itchy Eyes?
A Discussion about Dry Eyes in Northern Virginia with Dr. Tewodros Gedamu of Dr. Gedamu and Associates serving Vienna, Fairfax, Centerville, Burke, Reston, Springfield, Fair Lakes, VA.
If you are living in Vienna, Fairfax, Reston or another northern Virginia town, the environment can be challenging for our eyes. Dry Eyes is now a recognized eye disease marked by either decreased tear production or increased tear film evaporation. Typical symptoms include dryness, burning and a sandy-gritty eye irritation that gets worse as the day goes on. There may also be a feeling that something that feels like as a speck of dirt, is in the eye.
We spoke with Dr. Gedamu, leading optometrist of Dr. Gedamu and Associates in Fairfax, VA. As a dry eyes expert serving greater Northern Virginia he was able to answer all our questions about what can be done about dry eyes.
Q: Is it true that Dry Eye symptoms seem to be more severe during the winter months?
Dr. Gedamu: While Dry Eye symptoms are definitely a significant issue all year round, winter can be a greater challenge for many suffering with this chronic condition. With colder weather and many people spending increased hours indoors with the heater running, the dryness of our environment exacerbates Dry Eye symptoms. We often see a rise in patients coming in to our Fair Oaks Mall office location with Dry Eye symptoms during the winter months.
Q: When should someone come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms?
Dr. Gedamu: Dry Eye is a very real condition that needs to be examined and dealt with appropriately. Many people may be under the impression that it is enough to place some lubricating drops in their eyes and their problems will go away. Not true. While over the counter artificial tear products can help with mild cases, they can also prolong the issue and sometimes even cause it to worsen in cases of a real Dry Eye condition. Chronic soreness, irritation, or scratchiness are all really good reasons to make an appointment and have an examination done by your optometrist.
Q: What do you check in order to assess whether a patient is suffering from Dry Eyes?
Dr. Gedamu: There are numerous tests that we use in order to check the stability of the tear film and to measure the production of tears. While these tests are helpful, the most important indicator of a problem is the information provided by the patient about their experience and description of symptoms.
Q: What are the common treatments that you use in order to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?
Dr. Gedamu: There are so many products out there providing artificial lubrication for the eyes that it can be very confusing for our patients. Natural tears produced by the eye are complex, and are made up of many types of enzymes, oils, and other substances, each playing its own important role. In order to work out the treatment, we first need to identify the problem. Once an individual patient is accurately assessed and diagnosed, the most common treatment is to find the lubrication that will address the patient's needs. Other tools, like punctal plugs to reduce tear drainage, and protective eyewear are utilized when necessary as well.
Q: I live in Vienna and my eyes frequently are overly watery. That isn't Dry Eye, is it?
Dr. Gedamu: It sounds contrarian, but in fact, watery eyes are one of the common symptoms associated with Dry Eye. Although we use the term Dry Eye, this does not actually mean that the problem is dryness in the eyes per se. We are referring to an issue with the tear layer that covers the surface of the eye. This film protects the surface tissues and the lubrication of the eye, and helps in achieving clear vision. Due to soreness and irritation associated with Dry Eye, the eyes react by producing extra tears. The result is a Dry Eye issue and the experience of overly watery eyes!
Q: Are there certain people that are more prone to having Dry Eyes?
Dr. Gedamu: The environment is a major contributor to Dry Eye issues. For example I saw a patient from Fair Lakes, who spends many hours daily in front of a computer, for both work and recreation suffering from Dry Eye. People who use computers for long periods may have a higher frequency of dry eye symptoms. Interestingly enough, women more commonly have Dry Eyes than men; and the older we get, the more common the problem tends to be.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for people to help them avoid Dry Eye issues?
Dr. Gedamu: It is important to regulate our environment so that it is not overly dry. Protecting our eyes from wind and any potential pollutants can be a deterrent as well. People that spend regular time in front of a computer screen may help the lubrication of their eyes by simply taking short, but more frequent brakes from the screen. With all of that said, it is important to stress that when common Dry Eye symptoms are experienced, people should see their optometrist so that the problem does not persist, and is treated appropriately.