A consistent lack of quality tears can lead to a condition called dry eye syndrome.
There is hope for those struggling with dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the eyes remain chronically dry.
“The front surface of the eye is covered by your tears and those tears are not working properly,” Schauland says. “Because they’re no longer in their natural state, you now have symptoms of dryness, of blurry vision or lack of comfort and that, all together, is really what makes up dry eye.”
The causes of dry eye are “almost endless,” says Schauland who treats patients in Green Bay. “Age, gender, where do you live, what type of environment do you work in or live in?”
For example, work in a hospital setting? “That environment has to be really dry for sanitation purposes, that is also going to cause your eyes to be dry … medications can cause dry eyes. Screen time can cause dry eyes. There’s a lot of different causes and usually it’s more than one.”
Dry eye symptoms
Symptoms of dry eye include stinging or burning, a scratchy feeling, and/or excessive tearing. Some people also may experience fluctuations in vision, Schauland says.
“From minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day … moments where it feels like it’s really blurry but then all of a sudden, it’s clear,” she says. “Or it feels like your eyes are watering excessively, that actually can be a form of, as interesting as it sounds, can be a form of dry eye, kind of counterintuitive there.”
Schauland empathizes with dry eye patients.
“They are miserable and often emotional when they see me for help,” she says. “I let them know that this is a manageable condition, they’re not alone in trying to remedy this and we are here for them.”
Dry eye treatment options
Fortunately, several treatment options can help, Schauland says, including:
- Artificial tears: Over-the-counter eye drops to lubricate eyes
- Medicated drops: Prescription eye drops to increase natural tear production
- Ophthalmic inserts: Tiny cellulose beads placed in the eyelid to provide continuous lubrication
- Sterile ointments: Used at night to prevent the eye from drying out
- Tear duct plugs: Temporary plugs used to block the tear ducts/drains
- Tear duct closure: Surgical procedure to close tear ducts
- Self-care: Using a humidifier at night, wearing wraparound sunglasses, avoiding windy conditions, drinking plenty of water
Avoid dry eye
Lifestyle modifications go a long way toward helping a person avoid dry eye syndrome, Schauland says.
“Taking those breaks when we’re on the computer or drinking more water or using natural supplements to help combat the work environment that we’re in” are just a few ways people can reduce the likelihood of experiencing dry eye syndrome, Schauland says.
She offers advice for those uncertain about whether their symptoms are indicative of dry eye syndrome.
“As soon as the symptoms become more regular, I think it’s a good idea to get in, have someone take a peek at your eyes and get a baseline of, is it even dry eye or is it something else?”
Dry eye syndrome can be managed effectively, Schauland says.
“We’re here to help manage it because our eyes are so precious to our everyday life that we want you to not only feel comfortable in them but really see well out of them.
“Don’t be discouraged, come on in and we can have that conversation and really do a deep dive on your eyes, your symptoms and your overall outlook on life with that,” she says. “You’re not alone. We hear you and we’re here to help.”