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Are Face Masks Causing Dry Eye Symptoms?

woman wearing a mask 640Face masks and social distancing have become the first line of defense in COVID-19 prevention.

While these protective measures are essential to combating the virus’ spread, eye doctors are seeing an increase in dry eye cases among people who wear masks. If you are seeking relief, contact us.

What is Mask-Associated Dry Eye (MADE)?

Mask-associated dry eye (MADE) was first described by an ophthalmologist in May 2020 based on the higher rate of dry eye he was seeing in his practice among patients who wore masks. Patients with existing dry eye reported worsening symptoms when wearing a mask.

When a face mask doesn’t fit securely, it can push air from the nose and mouth upward, onto the eyes, causing the tear film — the liquid layer that coats the eyes’ surface — to evaporate more quickly. This leads to MADE.

Dry eye leaves the eyes feeling sore, gritty, dry and irritated. Left untreated, dry eye can cause damage to the cornea.

There are many causes of dry eye, including eye and health conditions, age, gender and certain medications. Insufficient blinking when looking at a digital device or book, poor indoor air quality and pollution can all play a role. Situations that increase how quickly the tear film evaporates can quickly and significantly dry the eye’s surface, leading to more pronounced symptoms.

What Causes Dry Eye When Wearing a Mask?

Wearing a face mask significantly reduces the spread of air when breathing out from the mouth and nose. Instead of moving out, the air moves upwards towards the eyes’ surface. This forces a stream of air over the surface of the eye, causing the tears to evaporate more quickly.

This is the same reason that eyeglasses fog up when wearing a mask.

When masks are worn for long periods of time, this repeated evaporation may lead to dry spots on the eyes’ surface.

 

How to Prevent or Alleviate MADE?

Here are some simple measures to help reduce dry eye while wearing a mask:

  1. Ensure your mask fits well, and consider taping the top edge to prevent air from rising from your mouth toward your eyes.
  2. Limit your time in air-conditioned or heated environments when possible. Also, take regular breaks from digital devices.
  3. Consult your eye doctor, who will examine your eyes and prescribe the best treatment.

Having to wear a face mask to prevent COVID-19’s spread may cause dry eye, but relief is available. Contact The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates if you are experiencing dry eye symptoms. We will determine the underlying cause of your dry eye and offer you the best solution so you can get back to having comfortable eyes and vision.

 

The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates serves patients from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, throughout Virginia.

 

How to Get Rid of Eyelash Mites

How to Get Rid of Eyelash Mites 640What if we told you that there are tiny critters living on your face? Would you believe it?

The truth is that just about every person on earth has Demodex mites living in their facial pores.

But before you run to the bathroom sink and start scrubbing your cheeks, read on to learn what these microscopic mites are, and how they can affect your eyes.

What are Demodex Mites?

Demodex mites are tiny 8-legged arachnids that make their home in the pores and hair follicles of your face. Fortunately, they’re too small to see with the naked eye, measuring only 0.4 mm long.

There are 2 types of Demodex mites: Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis. Both types can be found all over the face, but Demodex folliculorum mites tend to concentrate around the eyelash area.

Demodex mites live inside hair follicles, where they feed on dead skin cells and oily sebum that is secreted onto the hair shaft. That’s why they’re found in higher numbers around greasier areas of the body, like the eyes and nose.

The mites come out of the hair follicle at night to mate and then return in the morning. For this reason, symptoms of a Demodex infestation may be worse in the morning.

Demodex mites can be transferred from one host to another through facial skin or hair contact. They can also be introduced to a new host through shared makeup and cosmetics.

Having a small amount of Demodex mites seems to be harmless, but an overgrowth of mites — called “demodicosis” — can cause a host of symptoms affecting the eyes and other areas of the face. A Demodex infestation can also exacerbate pre-existing skin conditions like rosacea and acne.

How Can Demodex Mites Affect Your Eyes?

Too many Demodex mites can cause uncomfortable symptoms that may include:

  • Itchy or burning eyes, especially in the morning
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Crusty eyes
  • Red, irritated eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred or decreased vision
  • Falling eyelashes
  • Infected eyes

If you experience a yellowish discharge on your eyelashes mainly in the mornings, this could be a sign of a Demodex mite infestation.

Severe cases of demodicosis can lead to blepharitis — an inflammation of the eyelids. Blepharitis often leads to an inflammation of the cornea called keratitis, a serious condition that can lead to blindness if left untreated.

Risk Factors For Demodicosis

You’re more likely to have a Demodex mite outbreak if you:

  • Have oily skin
  • Wear makeup
  • Sleep overnight without properly removing makeup
  • Have poor personal hygiene

Some pre-existing conditions that increase the possibility of a Demodex outbreak include:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Alopecia
  • Inflammatory acne
  • Dermatitis

Your Dry Eye Optometrist Can Help

The good news is that Dr. John Dragon can provide safe and effective treatment for your demodicosis.

Because Demodex mites are so small, they’re impossible to diagnose on your own. Only a comprehensive eye exam can determine the source of your symptoms.

Treatment for a Demodex mite infestation typically involves a medicated ointment that can prevent the mites from reproducing. In severe cases, oral medication may be prescribed. Your eye doctor may also manually clean the margins of your eyelids or recommend over-the-counter products that can help soothe irritation and promote healing.

If you suspect you have demodicosis or experience any of the symptoms listed above, contact The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates to schedule an eye exam.

The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates serves patients from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and throughout Virginia.

 

Managing Dry Eye Symptoms While Enjoying the Outdoors

couple on a field of flowers 640As the weather gets warmer and Covid-19 restrictions gradually ease, many people want to spend as much time outdoors as possible. But for those with chronic dry eye syndrome, uncomfortable symptoms may deter them from enjoying Mother Nature. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Grittiness
  • Watery eyes
  • Irritated or burning eyes
  • Blurred vision

While the only sure way to diagnose and treat your eye condition is having an eye exam with Dr. John Dragon, the following tips may offer some relief until your next appointment — especially while you’re spending time in the open air.

Always Bring Along a Water Bottle

A dehydrated body can mean dehydrated eyes. Drinking plenty of water can help your eyes produce the healthy amount of tears needed to maintain lubrication. Even if you are spending time in a humid environment, be sure to drink water or other hydrating fluids. Try to avoid alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks, as they can be dehydrating and exacerbate dry eye symptoms.

Pack Some Lubricating Eye Drops

One of the main causes of dry eye syndrome is insufficient or poor quality tears. Lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears, can compensate for the lack of tears and offer temporary relief. The drops’ tiny containers make them travel-friendly and perfect for almost any outdoor activity. There are many kinds of eye drops on the market, but Dr. John Dragon can recommend or prescribe the most suitable type for your eyes.

Wear Protective Eyewear

Exposure to the elements can leave your eyes feeling dry and uncomfortable. Wearing protective eyewear, such as sports goggles or wrap-around sunglasses, can protect your eyes from harsh winds, debris in the air, and sunlight. Even a light breeze can strip the eyes of their protective tear film and accelerate the rate of evaporation.

Visit Your Dry Eye Optometrist

While the above recommendations can provide temporary relief, a dry eye evaluation with Dr. John Dragon can help identify and treat the underlying cause of your symptoms. Dr. John Dragon will recommend the latest and most effective dry eye treatments for long-lasting relief and optimal comfort. If you or a loved one is suffering from dry eye syndrome, call The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates to schedule your consultation today.

The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates serves patients from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and throughout Virginia.

Ever Wonder What Causes Eye Twitching?

Dry Eye Africam American Man 640×350Many of us have experienced an involuntary eyelid spasm but didn’t give it much thought. These eyelid spasms, or twitches, are a repetitive and involuntary spasm of the muscles in the eyelids. The twitch most frequently occurs in the upper eyelid, but can occasionally occur in both upper and lower eyelids.

The twitch sensation is generally painless and harmless. It can be caused by several factors and rarely indicates a more serious underlying condition. One condition, however, that can contribute to eyelid twitching is dry eye syndrome (DES). Below, we’ll briefly explain DES and how it can trigger eyelid twitching.

What Is DES?

Dry eye syndrome is characterized by the chronic lack of sufficient ocular lubrication and can be caused by allergies, irritants, and insufficient or poor quality tears. Some symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Grittiness
  • Stinging or burning sensation

If you suspect you have DES or experience any of the above symptoms, speak with Dr. John Dragon about finding relief and regaining the quality of life you seek.

How Is Eyelid Twitching Related To DES?

When the eyes lack lubrication, the nervous system compensates by increasing the eyes’ blink rate to try and refresh the tear film. If the brain sends too many signals to increase the blink rate, the eyelid’s muscles may begin to twitch due to the overload of signals fired from the brain. Eventually, as the eyelid muscles become more fatigued from the excess blinking, twitching becomes more noticeable and irritating.

What Can Be Done To Ease Symptoms?

Eyelid twitching can be bothersome and can even interfere with performing daily tasks. Though twitching episodes usually subside after a minute or two, there are some steps you can take to shorten their duration or eliminate them altogether.

Try using lubricating eye drops to bring some moisture back to your eyes, thus reducing the signals sent to the nervous system to increase the blink rate. Dr. John Dragon can recommend which over-the-counter drops best suit your eyes’ needs, or prescribe more potent eye drops.

Try gently massaging your closed upper eyelids to suppress the twitching when it occurs. The light pressure can help relax the surrounding muscles. You can also apply a warm eye compress when the lid is twitching or whenever your eyes feel irritated.

Additionally, if you experience twitching or cramping in other muscles, such as in your legs, taking some magnesium may help reduce the frequency of the spasms.

How We Can Help

Mild eyelid spasms and twitches are generally not something to be concerned about, unless they are prolonged, frequent, or distract you from your normal routine. At The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates, we aim to provide you with relief from any dry eye symptoms using the latest treatments available. If you or a loved one suffer from eye twitches or any other DES symptoms, let us help you manage your ocular condition for a lifetime of clear and comfortable vision.

The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates provides dry eye relief and other services to patients from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Virginia.

 

Your Eyes Can’t Focus? It Could Be Dry Eye!

photo of woman using laptopYou have been working on a report for weeks and your deadline is tomorrow morning. It’s the end of a long day at the office, and you need to check the numbers one more time. When you do, the figures on the spreadsheet appear blurry, and you just can’t get your eyes to focus.

But why? You recently had your eyes examined and the optometrist assured you that your current contact lens prescription is fine. What could be wrong with your eyes?

Why Can’t Your Eyes Focus?

Many patients come to us at The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates with similar complaints about eye focus problems. After examining their eyes, we often diagnose them with dry eye syndrome.

When working long hours on the computer or spending a significant amount of time staring at a mobile phone screen, the eye’s blink rate decreases significantly, causing the protective tear film that covers the eye to evaporate faster. To retain visual acuity, the tear film needs to spread smoothly and evenly over the eye surface. Insufficient fluid makes this impossible.

What is Dry Eye?

With people spending more and more hours on digital devices, the increasing prevalence of dry eye is not surprising. As mentioned earlier, dry eye occurs when tears don’t provide sufficient lubrication to the eye or are of poor quality.

Mild dry eye can affect up to 50% of the adult population in the USA, with more than 16 million adults suffering from severe dry eye.

Dry eye can be caused by infrequent blinking, hot and dry air, certain medical conditions, medications, eyelid problems, or damaged tear glands. Age is another factor, as tear production decreases with age. Long-term use of contact lenses is another possible cause. Furthermore, simply being exposed to today’s polluted air can make your eyes feel very dry.

Additional symptoms of dry eye include redness of the eyes, itchy eyes, a burning sensation in the eyes, eye fatigue, and increased sensitivity to light.

What Do Tears Have to Do With Eye Focus?

Poor tear quality can also cause blurry vision. Tears are a mixture of water, fatty oils, and mucus. If the balance is off between these three essential layers, the tears will no longer produce the necessary smooth cover over the front of the eye. Even though your eyes focus perfectly well, the uneven film of tears will distort your vision, and the numbers on your spreadsheet will appear blurry.

When your eyes can’t focus, it could be dry eye from EyeCarePro on Vimeo.

How to Treat Dry Eye

Artificial tears can provide relief for mild dry eye. Make sure to use only preservative-free drops. Consult Dr. John Dragon to get more information on the ideal treatment for your dry eyes.

We can run simple diagnostic tests to determine the cause of dry eye and evaluate your tear quality. If you wear contact lenses, the optometrist can recommend different types of lenses made from materials that retain more moisture.

Schedule an eye exam with Dr. John Dragon at The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates today and talk to us about your focusing issues and dry eye concerns.

Visit our practice if you are from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and throughout Virginia.

Home Remedies For Dry Eye

woman washing her face with water 2087954If your eyes burn, itch or feel gritty, you may have dry eye syndrome. This is typically caused by a low production of tears or low-quality tears.

Many substances and situations can cause dry eyes, such as the medication you’re taking, the time spent staring at your phone or computer without blinking, exposure to smoke or dry air, wearing contact lenses or aging. No matter the cause, it feels pretty terrible.

If you’re stuck at home and social distancing in order to keep yourself and others safe, worry not — you can still find relief from your unpleasant symptoms. In addition to using artificial tears and ocular lubricants, you may want to try these at-home remedies with products or items you may have in your cupboard.

Eyelid Wash

One way to produce higher quality tears is to keep your eyelids clean. You can do this by using a gentle cleanser, such as baby shampoo, and rubbing a small amount between your fingertips until it becomes frothy. Simply close your eyes and gently massage the soap into the base of your eyelids, right by your eyelashes, and then rinse with warm water while keeping your eyes closed.

Pay particular attention to the areas with makeup or facial creams that could enter the tear film and potentially irritate your eyes. Follow the eyelid wash with a warm compress (see below) to help your eyes regain moisture.

Repeat this process morning and night to relieve dry eye symptoms.

Warm Compress

A warm compress increases circulation to the eye area and stimulates tear production. This method also soothes your eye irritation by releasing oils that may have accumulated in the glands of your eyelid, thus improving tear quality.

Instructions: Prepare a bowl with warm water. Then soak a clean, lint-free cloth in the water, wring it out and place it over your eyes for a maximum of ten minutes. If the compress cools down, soak it once again in the warm water. Do this several times a day for a few days until your eyes feel better.

Add Omega-3 to Your Diet

Those lacking essential fatty acids in their diet are prone to developing dry eye syndrome. Studies show that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may stimulate tear production and create quality tears that lubricate your eyes more effectively. Consider supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids, which are naturally found in foods like salmon, sardines, anchovies, and flax seeds. Taking fish oil capsules or other omega-3 tablets also works really well.

Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is great for those with dry eyes, as it creates a protective layer over the tear film layers, resulting in reduced evaporation. Furthermore, coconut oil has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. All you need to do is soak a cotton ball in coconut oil and place it on your closed eyelid. Do this several times a day until your eyes feel better.

Increase Caffeine Intake

Studies indicate that caffeine may alleviate dry eye by increasing production in the tear glands. Just make sure you’re careful when consuming caffeine, as it can lead to jitters, irritability and insomnia, particularly if you’re sensitive to caffeine, or if consumed in high quantities.

The participants in one study consumed capsules with 200 mg to 600 mg of caffeine (or 2-6 cups of coffee), depending on their weight.

On the other hand, caffeine in some people may act as a mild diuretic, which means they generally pass more water, possibly making the dry eye worse.

Change Your Environment

You may need to change your environment to prevent or alleviate dry eye, as dry air, high winds, dust, smoke, pollution and air conditioning can lead to temporary eye dryness. Consider using a cold-mist humidifier and avoid sitting directly in front of air conditioners or fans.

Wear Sunglasses

When outdoors, particularly when it’s windy, dusty or there’s the risk of high levels of UV exposure, wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes and decrease the chance of debris entering the eyes. Additionally, the front of your eyes has a protective layer called the conjunctiva, which can become red and inflamed when exposed to high levels of UV light or dust. Wearing good quality sunglasses will further prevent the eyes from experiencing those dry and irritating feelings.

Dry eye syndrome can cause another condition called photophobia, or acute sensitivity to light. By wearing sunglasses, you can further ease your dry eye symptoms.

More tips to prevent or alleviate dry eye symptoms

Blink More

By deliberately blinking, you stimulate the flow of tears which can help keep the moisture on your eyes intact. Though purposeful blinking may look unnatural, it’s still worth practicing in order to get used to blinking enough throughout the day — particularly when staring at screens (computer or digital devices) for extended periods.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body, which then affects the quality of your tears. Consider limiting your alcohol intake, or eliminate it entirely, and see whether there’s a correlation between your alcohol consumption and dry eyes.

Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoking can double the risk of developing dry eye syndrome. Cigarette smoke is harmful to the eyes as it has more than 7,000 chemicals, all of which can irritate eyes. Furthermore, smoking can impact the composition of your tears.

If you’re a smoker, consider quitting. If you’re a non-smoker, avoid environments where there is an abundance of heavy smoking.

Drink More Water

Last but not least: drink more water! Staying well-hydrated is good for your eyes and is critical for manufacturing healthy tears, clearing out debris, blinking and seeing comfortably.

Make sure you drink 8-10 glasses of water a day for eye health, and of course, overall general physical wellbeing.

At-home remedies can alleviate mild and temporary instances of the condition. If the symptoms persist or worsen, contact The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates to speak with Dr. John Dragon.

The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates is committed to helping you manage your long-term eye health. We serve patients from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and throughout Virginia.

Resources:

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/caffeine-dry-eye

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120417102358.htm

https://www.healio.com/optometry/nutrition/news/print/primary-care-optometry-news/%7B4ec4aff0-09b2-4c1c-aca1-7c8201b7610b%7D/ods-recommend-omega-3-omega-6-supplements-for-managing-dry-eye

What’s the Link Between Vaping and Dry Eye?

vaping e cigarette 640Vaping is gaining popularity, with over 10 million people worldwide using e-cigarettes or similar products.

But what many don’t know is that vaping can actually pose risks to your eye health and potentially lead to dry eye syndrome.

What Is Vaping?

For those unfamiliar with vaping, it is the inhalation of aerosol or vapor using either a battery powered e-cigarette, vape pen, or similar device. Attractive flavors like mango, apple pie, and mint are drawing the attention of both smokers and non-smokers.

Although vaping is typically promoted to help smokers kick the habit, an increasing number of non-smokers are getting hooked on vaping. And while traditional cigarettes are more harmful to your health, vaping doesn’t come without risks.

Vaping has been linked to some serious health problems and even deaths. Aside from being damaging to your heart and lungs, it can also be detrimental to your eye health.

How Vaping Can Lead to Dry Eye

Dry eye occurs when the eyes aren’t sufficiently lubricated due to insufficient tears, poor tear quality, or environmental factors. Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include red, itchy, gritty, watery, stinging or burning eyes. In severe cases, dry eye can damage the cornea and lead to vision loss. Those with dry eye may struggle to wear contact lenses and may be prone to light sensitivity or blurred vision.

According to a study published in the Optometry and Vision Science journal, vaping can aggravate the eye’s corneal surface causing moderate-to-severe dry eye symptoms. Vaping can also exacerbate symptoms of dry eye in people who already suffer from the condition. Researchers believe that it’s due to the hazardous byproducts of the chemicals in the vape’s liquid component.

The study also showed that vapers experienced a faster rate of tear breakup and tear evaporation when compared to people who don’t vape. The more severe cases of eye dryness were found in those using higher voltage when compared to those who vaped with a lower voltage.

Our Dry Eye Optometrist Can Help

If you or someone you care about is experiencing dry eye symptoms — whether it’s caused by vaping or something else — we can help. Our dry eye optometrist will evaluate your eye health and offer the most effective treatment for your condition.

Suffering from dry eye? Find the relief you seek. Contact The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates today to schedule your dry eye evaluation.

The Dry Eye Center of Southern Eyecare Associates serves patients from Norfolk, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and throughout Virginia.

 

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