August 19th, 2019

Dry eye problems not being addressed

By Bobinec, Greg on April 9, 2019.

Herald photo by Greg Bobinec
Dr. Maggie Gibb takes a closer look at her patients eyes to determine the reason for them suffering from dry eyes, following a survey released saying 90 per cent of Albertans suffer from dry eyes. @GBobinecHerald

Many Albertans don’t deal with issue properly

Greg Bobinec

Lethbridge Herald

A survey commissioned by the Alberta Association of Optometrists (AAO) reveals that a large number of Albertans are experiencing symptoms of dry eye, but do not properly address the issue.

According to the survey, 90 per cent of Albertans are experiencing the symptoms which include stinging, gritty, scratchy and uncomfortable eyes, fluctuating vision, and sometimes a burning feeling or the feeling of something within the eye. The survey also showed almost three in five Albertans who have experienced dry-eye symptoms don’t do anything to treat it.

“People really complain about these symptoms and wonder if it is really affecting them and if they really have to go in and do all of these treatments,” says Dr. Maggie Gibb, practising optometrist at Iris Optometrists. “In the long term, it can definitely cause damage to the corneal tissues on the surface of the eye. They need oxygen to stay healthy and if they don’t get good tear film coverage then oxygen can’t dissolve and feed the corneal tissue and we get a loss of clarity in the tissue, so we get scarring and vision loss from dry eye, but that would be a pretty severe case, but it definitely can lead you to more eye infections and potentially not being able to wear contact lenses.”

Many people play off their dry-eye symptoms as environmental change, but symptoms can result from the normal aging process, hormonal changes, exposure to certain environmental conditions, problems with normal blinding, UV exposure, environmental irritations, or from medications such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives or antidepressants.

“People tend to blame their dry-eye symptoms on environmental irritants associated with the changing of seasons,” says Dr. Troy Brady, practising optometrist and president of the AAO.

“But there are many different factors that can cause dry-eye symptoms. What I would like to remind Albertans is that your optometrist can help identify that cause and will work with you to come up with the most appropriate course of treatment.”

While many people use over-the-counter drops or other lubricating eye treatments to temporarily mask the symptoms, optometrists caution that these can, in some cases, make a situation worse. Symptoms of dry eye may be indicative of larger issues such as an eyelid infection or disease, which would require a proper diagnosis and treatment from an optometrist. Treatments such as drops, prescription dry medications, and UV blue-light blocking lenses are some of the alternative ways to treat the symptoms.

With two-in-three Albertans having experienced dry eye symptoms not visiting an optometrist for their dry eye, the AAO is encouraging people to check in with their optometrist so they can diagnose, treat and help prevent diseases and disorders affecting the visual system, the eye and related structures. Optometrists are also able to identify underlying health conditions that are often first detected through an eye exam.

Medically necessary visits to an optometrist for concerns such as dry-eye symptoms, infections or injury to the eye, along with sudden changes in vision, are covered by Alberta Health Care.

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