Red Eyes…Just Allergies??? Maybe!

BY Jon Beeson

Question??! Do you experience eye irritation, a sandy, gritty sensation, blurred vision, or eye fatigue? Have you recently experienced excessive tearing, burning sensations, or discomfort with glare or light sensitivity?  During this time of year, without question, these are some of the most common complaints we receive from patients. And more often than not, the patient will attribute it to allergies. Does this sound like you? If it does, I assure you, you are not alone. After all, we do live in a beautiful town with incredible scenery and trees that unfortunately contribute to a lot of pollen moving around. Even more unfortunate, is that many patients that we see will simply accept these complications as part of life and will rough through their symptoms. But what if you didn’t have to? What if the source of your problems wasn’t allergies at all? Rather, what if it was something far simpler and even commonly dismissed, yet incredibly more common than allergies?

Allergies and Dry Eye Disease (DED) can appear incredibly similar in sign and symptoms yet are very different problems with very different solutions. Dry eye can often be misdiagnosed or even taken lightly as a benign condition. And mild dry eye problems can seem insignificant, however; mild dryness without proper care can worsen over time and that is when the symptoms can become very problematic. One cornea specialist even suggests that those suffering from moderate to severe dry eye disease can replicate a reduction in the quality of life that is comparable to patients undergoing dialysis, those that have severe angina, and those suffering from disabling hip fractures. This may seem extreme and somewhat anecdotal, but nonetheless shows that dryness is anything but a benign condition. And considering that it is estimated that there are over 340 million reported dry eye sufferers in the world, this is not a small problem and needs to be addressed.

There are many different underlying causes for Dry Eyes and due to this complexity, many of those that have been properly diagnosed may either not being treated or are being treated inappropriately. Some of the more common underlying causes of DED include inflammation, auto immune problems, pregnancy, thyroid issues, and diabetes. When educating our patients, we try and simplify the causes of dryness into two categories, either our bodies are not producing enough tears (quantity) or the tears we are producing are not “good” tears (quality). It is important to discern which of these pathways is responsible in order to effectively treat DED.

For example, one of the more prevalent causes of the decrease of the quality of our tears is due to a process known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction.  Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD) is a blockage or an abnormality of the oil glands along the eyelid margins, preventing oils being released into the tears, leading to dry eye symptoms. These oils are important in that they mix with the water part of the tear and keep it on the eye longer and help keep the tear from evaporating in the environment. Without these oils being expressed, the tears do not have a good quality and therefore lead to advanced stages of dry eyes. This is an ever-growing problem. Recent research suggests that 86% of dry eye patients had signs of MGHD, and 60% of all contact lens wearers had signs of MGD as well.

Although these statistics are staggering, today’s technology allows for a comprehensive evaluation of these glands and help to determine their functionality or the severity of the blockage.  The Payson Eye Care Dry Eye Clinic takes pride in staying on the cutting edge of this technology and utilizing it to benefit the ocular health and comfort of our patients down to the tiniest detail. We use advanced tools and are constantly developing and implementing new treatments based on the ever-changing research being conducted to help diagnose and treat the underlying causes of the symptoms.

So, if you find yourself with similar symptoms as described in this article, give us a call and let us set up a Dry Eye Evaluation for you. Based on your testing results, we will create a personalized treatment plan for you. You no longer need to endlessly suffer, you now have options, and we are here to change your life for the better.