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Dealing with dry eye in Arizona

Treatments and options for patients
Eye exam
Posted at 6:31 AM, Oct 05, 2021

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Experts say millions of Americans are dealing with dry eye on a daily basis, but there are some situations that can make you more likely to get it. University of Arizona Assistant Professor Rosie Zhang works in the ophthalmology department and says the issue of dry eye is something she sees all the time.

"Dry eye is really prevalent here, we see it a lot and a lot of it has to do with the climate. Dry eye is a condition that affects the tear film on the surface of our eyes. You may only think of tears coming in to play when we’re crying or when we feel sad. We are supposed to have a thin layer of tears called a tear film over our eyes all the time,” Zhang said.

According to the National Eye Institute nearly 16 million Americans suffer from dry eye daily. Zhang says if don't treat it , you can do damage to your cornea.

“The tear film is really complex it's made up of several layers and that's contributed to by your eyelids and your tear glands. So, when these components are off balance then you can have dry eye. This can cause blurred vision, red eyes, a stinging or burning sensation and feeling like there’s something gritty in your eyes,” Zhang said.

Weather is also a factor, but there are some lifestyle changes that can help. Doctors say eating a balanced diet and staying hydrated are key. Buying over the counter artificial tears and ointments can help you get relief.

“We in southern Arizona enjoy a very warm climate with low humidity, as a result tears evaporate more quickly which can lead to dry eye. Wear proper eye protection, protect your eyes on sunny and windy days. We recommend stopping smoking and resting eyes. Especially if you’re doing computer work or watching TV. There's something we call the 20, 20, 20 rule which is taking a break every 20 minutes and looking at something from 20 feet away for 20 seconds,” Zhang said.

According to Zhang, the causes of dry can vary from person to person, however aging, side-effects from medications and the position of the eye lid can have an impact on the condition.
“If you’re having discomfort its best to be evaluated to make sure its dry eye causing the discomfort,” Zhang said.

At this point there is no cure for dry eye, but NEI says in severe cases doctors might prescribe medication, install tear duct plugs or perform surgery if needed.

National Eye Institute: