September 27, 2012

Irritated Eyes: How to Find Relief

By Michael Boehm, M.D.
Eye Surgeons Associates

“My eyes often burn, look red, and feel dry by the end of the day.”

“I have to blink a lot while reading to clear my blurry vision.”

Do these statements sound familiar to you? Do you have trouble finding relief when your eyes feel this way? Like millions of other patients, you may suffer from dry eye disease.

Our tears maintain the health and function of the external eye. Dry eye disease is diagnosed when either the quantity and/or quality of this tear layer is abnormal, and can cause inflammation on the surface of the eye. These factors can lead to many uncomfortable and often frustrating symptoms, including dryness, burning, itching, foreign body sensation, blurry or fluctuating vision, and red eyes.

The underlying causes of dry eye disease are extensive. The most common cause, diminished production of natural tears, is associated with aging, inflammation of the tear-producing lacrimal gland (Sjogren’s syndrome), and certain types of arthritis. Hormonal changes, such as menopause in women, are a significant factor contributing to dry eye disease. Systemic medications are also a cause of reduced tear production. Blood pressure medications, antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants are just a few examples of medications known to decrease natural tear production. Certain eyelid conditions, such as blepharitis and oil (meibomian) gland dysfunction can contribute to dry eye syndrome by decreasing the quality of our tear layer. Other external factors, such as exposure to cigarette smoke, dry or windy environments, and contact lens use, also play a role in this medical condition.

As these medical and environmental factors affect the quantity and quality of our natural tears, patients experience a variety of chronic symptoms. Where can you find relief for your eyes?

With mild dry eye, over the counter artificial tear drops can be used to supplement reduced tear production and help treat symptoms. Nutritional supplements, such as flaxseed or fish oil capsules, may also be beneficial. For patients with chronic symptoms and dry eye disease, over the counter treatments are often not enough. RESTASIS™, a FDA approved prescription for dry eye, is a valuable treatment option for this condition. RESTASIS™ combats dry eye disease by helping the eyes produce healthier and more abundant tears. Since the cause of this condition can involve multiple ocular and medical factors, a comprehensive eye examination with your ophthalmologist is recommended to discuss dry eye disease and your treatment options.

Michael Boehm, M.D. is a board certified comprehensive ophthalmologist at Eye Surgeons Associates with a fellowship in cornea and external diseases and a specialty interest in dry eye. Dr. Boehm practices at our offices in Bettendorf, Rock Island, and Silvis. For more information visit