The following information was compiled by the Alberta Association of Optometrists.
As Albertans shake off the layers left behind from the brutal cold of this past winter, a new study reveals many are battling the symptoms of dry eye.
Stinging, gritty, scratchy and uncomfortable eyes are just some of the signs that Alberta optometrists are encouraging people to be on the lookout for.
“Many Albertans aren’t even aware that they are suffering from an eye condition,” says Tanya Sitter, an optometrist in Sundre.
“Oftentimes we see patients try and treat the symptoms themselves, not realizing that dry eye can be a real issue and that their optometrist can help by properly assessing the cause and providing the best course of treatment.”
The Alberta Association of Optometrists recently commissioned a survey to dig deeper into the issue of dry eye. Data compiled through the study, which was an online omnibus survey conducted earlier in February, was gleaned from 1,000 Albertans aged 18 and older, with an estimated margin of error for the total sample being give or take 3.1 per cent.
The survey revealed that 90 per cent of Albertans have experienced the symptoms, which also include fluctuating vision, a burning feeling or, most common among Albertans, the feeling of something foreign in the eye (74 per cent) and teary eyes (74 per cent).
“There are many factors that can cause dry eye symptoms,” says Sitter. “They can result from the normal aging process, hormonal changes, exposure to certain environmental conditions and irritants, UV exposure or problems with normal blinking. Medications such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives or antidepressants can also be a cause.”
In moderate to severe cases, dry eye symptoms can lead to blurred vision, light sensitivity or even periods of excess tearing in response to the dryness. They can also make wearing contact lenses more difficult due to the increased irritation.
According to the new data, almost three in five Albertans who have experienced dry eye symptoms do not use anything to treat their dry eye. Sitter says this statistic is concerning, as when left untreated, dry eye symptoms can cause tissue damage and scarring of the sensitive corneal tissues of your eye, leading to impaired vision.
While over-the-counter drops or lubricating eye treatments can temporarily mask the symptoms, Sitter points out that these can, in some cases, make the situation worse. In fact, symptoms of dry eye may be indicative of a larger issue such as an eyelid infection or disease, which would require a proper diagnosis and treatment from an optometrist.
“I would encourage everyone to visit their optometrist for dry eye symptoms, as we are your best line of defence against any underlying issues that may be causing the problem,” she says. “Appointments to treat conditions like dry eye, an eye infection or sudden changes in vision are covered by Alberta Health Care — the first step is to book an appointment.”
Visit www.optometrists.ab.ca for more information.