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Dry eye remains serious vision issue

CHICAGO — Dry Eye Syndrome, a painful condition that can impair vision and increase the risk of eye infection, affects millions of Americans.
Dry Eye is actually a group of disorders caused by the inability to produce enough tears with sufficient lubrication. Symptoms can include burning or itchy eyes as well as increased eye mucus and a gritty or scratchy feeling on the eyes. Severe cases may even include corneal scarring or ulcers.
Dry Eye is one of the leading causes of visits to eye care professionals. Treatment options vary from eye drops and ointments to some types of surgery.
The risk of Dry Eye increases with age. Other risk factors include patients who have undergone refractive surgery (such as LASIK), have severe allergies, are on certain medications, or are contact lens wearers. Those with rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases are also at increased risk.
Women are also more likely to develop Dry Eye. Approximately six million have moderate to severe symptoms of dry eye syndrome, as compared to three million men, according to the National Women's Health Resource Center.
Women who are pregnant, on certain types of birth control, or experiencing menopause have increased rates of Dry Eye. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute, women who are on hormone replacement therapy are also more likely to experience symptoms. Women taking only estrogen are 70 percent more likely to experience Dry Eye, and those taking estrogen and progesterone have a 30 percent increased risk of developing the condition.
As part of April as Women's Eye Health and Safety Awareness month, Prevent Blindness America offers the following tips on helping to avoid irritation from Dry Eye:
  • Use a humidifier to keep natural moisture in the air.
  • Avoid hair dryers, harsh winds, overly warm rooms and cigarette smoke.
  • When outdoors, wear goggles or sunglasses that wrap around the eyes.
  • Use drops of artificial tears, if directed by your doctor, especially in climates with low humidity, in air conditioned environments, and in airplanes or cars when the heater or defroster is on.
  • When using a computer, remember to blink often and give eyes a rest from staring at the screen.
  • Apply a warm washcloth to soothe irritated eyes.
  • Do not use harsh soaps or cleansers on around the eye area.
"Not only do more women have Dry Eye, they are also more likely to develop eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma. And, because of increased longevity, women are more likely to develop macular degeneration," Lynn K. Gordon, MD, Ph.D., president of the national organization, Women in Ophthalmology, said. "It is imperative that women of every age make an appointment with their eye doctor as soon as possible to ensure that they are protecting their vision for the future."
For more information on Dry Eye or other eye diseases or conditions with higher incidence rates in women, contact Prevent Blindness America at (800) 331-2020 or visit preventblindness.org..
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