Should Climate Change Affect Dry Eye?

Should Climate Change Affect Dry Eye?

Aug 01, 2023

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is a syndrome also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca. The eye condition occurs when the eyes do not produce enough quality tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. Dry eyes are a common eye condition that affects people of all ages. However, according to the experience of most optometrists in Castle Pines, dry eyes are more prevalent in older adults, particularly women.

How Do Tears Affect Eye Health?

Tears play a crucial role in maintaining the health and lubrication of the eyes. When insufficient, you will experience many complications related to dry eyes. Tears provide moisture, lubrication, and nutrients to the eye’s front surface, keeping it smooth and clear. They also help protect the eyes from infections and wash away foreign particles.

When you have dry eye syndrome, the quantity or quality of tears is compromised so that you suffer various symptoms and discomfort that necessitate dry eye treatment options. The symptoms may include:

  • The eyes may feel dry, gritty, or like something foreign.
  • Irritation, redness, and a sensation of burning or stinging
  • Blurry vision, especially during prolonged visual tasks or in certain environments – usually due to inadequate tear lubrication
  • Sensitivity to light, leading to discomfort in bright or glaring conditions
  • Eye fatigue with prolonged periods of visual concentration, such as reading or computer use.
  • Excessive tearing is a reflex response to the irritation caused by insufficient lubrication.

Common Causes of Dry Eye

Several factors can contribute to the development of dry eye syndrome in patients, including:

  1. Aging: Tear production usually decreases as we age. Therefore, older adults are more susceptible to dry eye.
  2. Hormonal Changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, common among women during menopause and pregnancy, can affect tear production.
  3. Medications: Certain medications, like antihistamines, antidepressants, decongestants, and some blood pressure medications, can worsen dry eye symptoms.
  4. Medical Conditions: Autoimmune disorders like Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and other diseases like diabetes and thyroid disorders can contribute to dry eye
  5. Prolonged Screen Time: Staring at screens for extended periods can reduce the blink rate, leading to increased tear evaporation and dry eye symptoms.
  6. Environmental Factors: Dry or windy climates, air conditioning, smoke, and dry indoor environments can exacerbate dry eye symptoms.

How Does Climate Change Affect Dry Eye?

Climate change exacerbates dry eye syndrome in several ways, including:

  1. Dry climates increase the tear evaporation rate, leading to faster tear film depletion.
  2. Low humidity increases the evaporation of tears and moisture from the ocular surface, leading to eye dryness and discomfort.
  3. Climate change is often accompanied by increased air pollution. Pollutants in the air irritate the eyes and reduce the quality of tears, affecting their lubricating properties.
  4. Climate change impacts the distribution and concentration of allergens, such as pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. The allergens can trigger allergic conjunctivitis, which contributes to dry eye symptoms.
  5. Climate change can result in higher levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, damaging the ocular surface and contributing to dry eye symptoms.

What To Do When Seasons Change

  1. Seek treatment from an eye doctor at Founders Eyecare – treatment for the dry eye improves tear production, retains tears, and relieves symptoms. To manage contributing factors, eye doctors may recommend contact lenses, humidifiers, or lubricating eye drops. In other cases, prescribing medications or specialized procedures may be the best treatment.
  2. Choose preservative-free artificial tears and use them as needed, especially if you spend significant time indoors with air conditioning or heating systems.
  3. Drink plenty of water – proper hydration maintains tear production and overall eye health.
  4. Wear sunglasses and other protective eyewear to shield your eyes from environmental irritants. Wrap-around sunglasses can provide added protection from wind and dry air.
  5. Take regular breaks to rest your eyes from screens to reduce eye strain and dryness. Follow the 20-20-20 rule, which states to look at an object at 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.
  6. Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke that can worsen dry eye symptoms.
  7. Blink consciously and frequently, primarily when engaged in visually demanding tasks.
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