Dry Eye Syndrome

Thank you for curing my eyes, doctor." This was a patient’s surprise remark to me several years ago. Doctors always enjoy hearing that a patient has been cured. But there was a problem in this particular case. Normally, I know how I’ve cured them. But in this case, I hadn’t a clue. In fact, I hadn’t even prescribed anything for her eyes.

The woman, had consulted me for annoying menopausal symptoms – hot flushes, increased irritability and a desire to kick the cat or whatever else was handy. She was obviously menopausal and needed hormone therapy, namely estrogen.

But during the office visit, while sitting across from me, she was continually rubbing her eyes. She eventually asked if I could also prescribe something to stop the eye irritation. I advised her to see an opthamologist. But she replied, "I’ve already seen three without any help." It was only after she’d gone that I realized what had happened. I’ve known for years that estrogen has a major effect on some tissues in the body, particularly the vagina.

Estrogen cream, for instance, can change a sore, ulcerated menopausal vagina into a healthy one in a matter of days. I’ve often said thatf estrogen had the same effect on every tissue of the body we’d never grow old. What I didn’t know at the time was that estrogen can also help cure "dry eye syndrome". Today an increasing number of North Americans are bothered by dry, itchy eyes. But the dry eye syndrome is not a specific disease. Rather, it’s a general term indicating only that the eye lacks moisture.

Its symptoms vary from mild discomfort to acute pain. The majority of patients complain of a sensation similar to having something in the eye. Or they may notice redness of the eye, difficulty blinking and sensitivity to light.

Many things bring tears to our eyes. Chopping an onion, seeing our children graduate or a sad movie. But some people don’t produce enough tears to keep their eyes moist and free from irritation.

A variety of conditions can contribute to the dry eye problem. As we age, the eye normally becomes drier. In fact, it’s estimated that by age 45 most of us will have lost up to 50 per cent of our normal tear-producing ability. The eye can also become dehydrated when exposed to too much wind. Urban life, too, is tough on the eye. Increasing smog in many areas of the country and cigarette smoke are not kind to sensitive eyes.

And check your medicine cabinet if you find yourself frequently rubbing your eyes – it could contain a number of possible culprits. For instance, an increasing number of people are using beta-blockers to treat cardiovascular problems. Other drugs, such as those used to treat peptic ulcers, antidepressants, antihistamines and diuretics can cause that itchy, burning, gritty feeling in the eyes.

Too much caffeine has also been associated with dry eyes. And alcohol, due to its diuretic effect on the kidneys, can be a factor.

There are several ways to ease this problem without having to resort to onions. Artificial tears such as Cellufresh M.D. is one of the best treatments, as it provides long-lasting relief and contains essential ingredients for eyes.

There are several other practical ways to ease the discomfort, too. A hot, dry atmosphere is hard on the skin and it’s equally tough on the eyes. The use of a humidifier at the maximum vapour level helps keep moisture on the surface of the eye. Today, some dry eyes are related to the huge number of hours many of us spend at the computer. It’s a good idea to take "blink breaks" – looking away from the screen, focussing the eye on objects across the room.

Lifestyle can also cause tired, gritty eyes – you can’t stay up half the night and not expect to rub your eyes in the morning. Here, the only prescription is Cellufresh M.D. or a change in living habits.