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    Dry Eyes: A Growing Problem
    Chris J. Cabler, M.D.
    The Laser Vision Center
    Houston, TX

    As the U.S. population continues to age, the most common complaints that ophthalmologists hear today concern dry eyes and their symptoms. Are your eyes burning, watery, or irritated? These are just a few of the problems found with Dry Eye Syndrome.

    The human eye is lubricated by two different types of tears produced by glands in the upper and lower eyelids. Constant tears are formed continually to lubricate and protect the eye. Reflex tears are pro-duced only in response to irritation, injury, or emotion. They are copious in amount and are intended to rinse the eye.

    A balance between the two different types of tears is necessary to ensure that your eyes are comfortable and protected. When constant tear flow is reduced, there is irritation that can cause excessive reflex tearing (watery eyes). These excessive tears lack the oil needed to keep them from rapidly evaporating and therefore do not adequately lubricate the eye.

    A lack of constant tears, improper lubrication, or tears draining too quickly from the eye result in a condition known as Dry Eye Syndrome. Dry Eye is becoming more common every day and is easily diagnosed and treated.

    There are many symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome. They include: stinging or burning eyes; scratchiness; stringy mucous (matter) in the eyes; excessive tearing (reflex tearing); difficulty wearing contact lenses; itching; tired eyes, and redness. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, you may have Dry Eye Syndrome.

    There are many causes for dry eyes and one or more factors may contribute to the problem.

    • Aging: As we age, tear production decreases. Post-menopausal & pregnant women are especially susceptible.
    • Medication: Common medications like antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, sleeping pills, antidepressants, beta-blockers & others can contribute to drying of the eyes.
    • Environment: Dry cold air at work and home, ceiling fans, auto air conditioning blowing in your face, or any strong draft for that matter dries out the eyes.

    The most common treatment for dry eyes is the use of artificial tears. Not all artificial tears are equally effective. Please consult with us regarding the types that are best for you. Artificial tears are available without a prescription. You may need to try several different brands to find the one you like best.

    In general, we prefer preservative-free eye drops, as they are easier on the eyes when used frequently. If you need to use artificial tears more than every four hours, preservative-free brands may be better for you.

    Another treatment that is rapidly gaining popularity is Punctal Plugs. These small silicone plugs are placed in the drainage openings, usually only in the lower lids. This allows one to retain his or her own natural tears for a longer period of time. This procedure is painless and is performed in the office. Relief from the discomfort of dry eyes may be immediate, while for some patients relief may be more gradual. Most patients find the reduction in artificial tear use and related costs very beneficial.

    Lastly, but certainly not least, is the avoidance of drying environments. Avoid drafts such as ceiling fans and hair dryers. Direct your car air conditioning away from your eyes. Be aware that our Gulf Coast air-conditioning which makes us more comfortable, does so by drying the air around us. Winter heating is even more irritating to dry eyes. And airplane travel is perhaps the most irritating as the air in a plane is 100% dry! (And, the air duct is directly over the eyes.) Finally, cigarette smoke is especially irritating to people with dry eyes, and can worsen the condition.

    So, if you are one of the many people with dry, burning, gritty, scratchy, stinging eyes, now is the time to do something about it. Lubricate, lubricate, lubricate. Consider Punctual Plugs. And make every effort to avoid drying environments. Call our office if you want our recommendation for an appropriate eye drop for your dry eyes.

    The Laser Vision Center - Chris J. Cabler, M.D.

    Dr. Cabler is a native Houstonian and fifth generation Texan. He obtained his medical degree from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. After interning at Hermann Hospital in Houston, he completed his Ophthalmological residency at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

    Dr. Cabler is active in the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, the International Society of Refractive Surgery and other medical organizations. As a practicing ophthalmologist, Dr. Cabler provides comprehensive ophthalmological care and a full service optical center.

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