The National Eye Institute defines Dry Eye as, "when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. In addition, inflammation of the surface of the eye may occur."
Or, for another vantage point, actress Jennifer Aniston says of Dry Eye: “I was doing interviews and a question came up about whether I had anything I was addicted to and I said ‘I actually have an addiction to eye drops.’ And like, as I was on the phone I’d had my third – in the hour! – dose. I had them with me all the time.”
Not fun? Not fun. Dry Eye affects as many as 5 million people in the U.S. alone. Yet, despite the large number of those affected, Dry Eye remains undiagnosed and untreated for most. As Aniston describes in the link above, that could be because of its symptoms.
Often mistaken for or brushed off as tired eyes, general fatigue, or some other isolated incident of irritation, those with Dry Eye ignore persistent symptoms and don't see their optometrists. Seeing your optometrist is vital to maintain good health.
Here are some common symptoms of Dry Eye that could signal that it's time to see your optometrist:
1. Inability to Cry
At first glance, that sounds pretty nice! Unfortunately, an inability to cry doesn't mean avoiding emotional distress. It does mean not being able to express emotional distress healthily, with lubricating tears, and it's a genuine bummer. If you find that your eyes are not playing their part when you're trying to express sadness, you could be experiencing a symptom of Dry Eye.
2. Blurred Vision
There are numerous things that can cause blurred vision, making it another symptom that is often incorrectly attributed to something other than Dry Eye. Those with Dry Eye have a lower tolerance for activities that require long-term staring, focus, and concentration. It can be so intolerable that it causes bouts of blurred vision. When eyes are starved of moisture, it can be tough to focus on anything. If that sounds like you, consider asking your optometrist about Dry Eye.
3. Fatigued Eyes
Another ambiguous symptom of Dry Eye is fatigue. Similar to blurry vision, fatigued eyes can be caused by a bunch of different things. So, when the symptom appears, it's not immediately clear what's causing it. For those with Dry Eye, fatigue is part and parcel. Dry eyes struggle all day to perform their basic functions. It takes little time for fatigue to set in.
4. Pain or Redness
It turns out, if your eyes are dry all day, they can become irritated. That irritation, caused by a lack of moisture and the resulting strain, can cause acute pain and redness. If you experience pain and redness with any persistence or frequency (caused by Dry Eye or not) it is definitely time to see your optometrist. Eyes can be easily irritated, but they should not display these symptoms unless something is going wrong.
5. Stinging or Burning
Most people un-fondly remember getting shampoo in their eyes as a child. It stings, it burns, and it leaves a bad impression. For those with Dry Eye, that feeling is all too familiar. If your eyes can't make it through the day without feeling like Johnson & Johnson paid them a visit, it's time to make an appointment.
6. Literal Dry Feeling
Maybe the best answer to 'What is Dry Eye? What does it feel like?" It feels ... dry. Literally. If your eyes feel gritty or like there is a grain (or grains) of sand caught in them, that's Dry Eye. If that physical sensation persists, don't ignore it or categorize it as something routine without getting it checked out by your optometrist.
Did any of the above sound familiar? Contact your Bard Optical optometrist and get checked out soon.