What you need to know about dry eyes as you age

When we get older, it’s inevitable that things will start to feel like they’re falling apart and deteriorating. Some of us can get away with the more obvious issues, but one that most seem to have trouble with is our eyes. Even from a young age, the majority of over 60s have had issues with their sight. One particular issue that seems to rear its ugly head when we age is dry eyes.

Our eyes become more and more sensitive to the wind and light, as our bodies get more dry. Changes in our diet and medications can also contribute to the pain and discomfort we can feel.

Here’s what else can dry out our eyes in our 60s and beyond:

  • Watery eyes: Ironically, dry eyes can cause watery eyes. Our body knows when are eyes are dry and can overcompensate. It doesn’t leave you feeling lubricated – it can just irritate you more.
  • Menopause: As we know, hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, mood swings, fatigue, and headaches are all associated with menopause. But did you know that more than 60 per cent of women who experience these symptoms also experience dry eyes?
  • Tear production: As we age, our eyes naturally slow down their tear production despite tears continuing to be a important defence for our eyes. Tears not only wash dust away from our eyes, but also soothe them, provide oxygen and nutrients to the cornea, and help defend against eye infections by washing away bacteria.
  • Medications: Dry eyes can be caused by some high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, heart medications, antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, and pain relievers. Drugs for Parkinson’s disease and gastric ulcers will also make your dry eye symptoms worse, as will hormone therapy, particularly estrogen therapy.
  • Certain foods: Chocolate, some soft drinks, coffee, and tea all contain caffeine, which robs your body of moisture. Try avoiding or limiting these foods and drinks.
  • Computer use: In this digital age and as we work less and less, we tend to spend more time on our computers or backlit devices. These can dry out our eyes substantially.
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So how do we prevent dry eyes? There are a few things you can do to prevent severe symptoms:

  • Drink water: Water is the best way to keep your body hydrated, especially if you live in dry, hot, or cold locations.
  • Humidifiers: Running a humidifier in your home can increase the amount of moisture in the air, which is especially important if you live in arid heat.
  • Location: If you have been living in the same home for many years, it may be making your eyes hurt due to dust and wind direction.
  • Natural supplements: Taking flaxseed oil and Omega-3 is a great way to decrease your dry eye symptoms. Also, by eating more cold-water fish like salmon, herring, cod, and sardines, you can get the dosage of Omega-3 fatty acids you need.

If you already have dry eyes and feel like you’ve tried everything, there are things you can do:

  • Restasis: Restasis is the first prescription drug of its kind and is generally recommended to people who get no relief from artificial tear eye drops. This treatment improves the body’s ability to produce its own natural, healthy tears by treating the underlying cause of the condition—inflammation.
  • Silicone Plugs: This is a non-surgical procedure that involves plugging the upper and lower lids where tears drain into your nose. Tiny bits of silicone are placed in these openings to keep your tears in your eyes and keep your eyes from drying out. These plugs can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of your symptoms, and the process is painless.
  • Surgery: Surgery is usually a last resort for those who cannot take the plugs being inserted into their tear ducts. Instead, the tear ducts are surgically closed with a minor procedure.
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Your optometrist can help you if you have concerns about your dry eyes. Here are some questions to ask at your next appointment:

  • Which over-the-counter medications do you recommend for dry eyes?
  • Do you think I would benefit more from prescription-strength dry-eye medication?
  • Which vitamins and nutrients should I increase my intake of?
  • Based on the cause of my dry eyes, what treatment options do I have?
  • How much does treatment cost? Does my insurance cover any of the costs?
  • What are some of the complications of dry eye?
  • What can I do at home and at work to prevent my eyes from drying out?
  • How often do you treat dry eye syndrome in older patients?

 

Do you have dry eyes? What do you do to make them feel less irritated? Share your tips and experience in the comments.