Arctic Blast Could Cause Epidemic Of Painful Dry Eye Syndrome

By Olivia Lerche

People should protect themselves by wearing sunglasses while also ditching booze and coffee, experts have claimed. Dry eye occurs when the eye isn’t producing enough tears, or they evaporate too quickly, and it therefore isn’t being bathed and kept moist. Now specialists say that dry eye symptoms can increase dramatically during a cold snap. And with snow blizzards hitting UK - as temperatures dip to -8C - sufferers are being urged to take evasive action to save their sight.

“If you’ve ever experienced pain, irritation or dryness in your eyes without any real explanation, or had sore and uncomfortable eyes after a screen-filled day at work, you’re probably one of the 300 million people who suffer from bouts of dry eye disease,” Dr David Allamby, a laser eye surgeon and founder of London’s Focus Clinic. “Tears are fundamental for overall eye health and clear vision, keeping the eye moist and washing away any dust or debris. “Tears also help to protect the eye from bacterial and other infections. So when your eyes don’t produce enough tears, you're vulnerable to problems. “There are well documented links between dry eye and screen use. Staring at a computer or smartphone all day means that you blink less and are therefore not lubricating your eyes properly.

“And it can also be caused by being exposed to cold weather. “Icy, strong winds and warm central heating combine to produce the perfect storm for dry eye disease, as you suffer in these moisture-less air conditions. “In preparation for the cold snap that’s approaching, I’d urge people stock up on eye drops to lubricate and soothe sore eyes. “While you might look a bit daft, I’d also wear sunglasses if you’re venturing outside in windy conditions to help prevent any rapid evaporation of tears. “If you’ve got heated seats in your car, use those rather than the air conditioning, which simply blasts dehydrating hot air into your face. “And you should also drink plenty of liquids while avoiding anything which acts as a diuretic - which means that you should definitely cut out alcohol and coffee if you’re struggling with the symptoms of dry eye.”

It’s estimated that around 20 per cent of people in the UK suffer from dry eye syndrome, rising to 50 per cent in those over 65, and is typically described as feeling like there’s grit underneath the eyelids. The protective ‘tear film’ contains three parts - a thin layer of sticky mucus which coats the cornea, a lacrimal gland above each eye which supplies a thicker gloss of tears, and meibomian glands in the upper and lower eyelids which pump out a smooth oil slick that keeps the tears from evaporating. In response to perceived threats, our eyes water or we blink, which replenishes the tears and oil. Any disruption to this process can result in blurred vision and repeated breaches cam result in permanent damage and crippling pain because the cornea has a high concentration of nerve endings.  

Dr Allamby said: “Studies have shown that, on average, we blink around 22 times per minute. But when we concentrate on a computer screen or smartphone that crashes to just five or seven blinks per minute. “If you’re not blinking enough, you’re not protecting your eyes sufficiently. It’s one of the main causes of dry eye. “The condition can affect people of any age with the chances increasing as you grow older, and more commonly in women than men. “But, alarmingly, a study has found that there has been a rapid increase of the disease in children. “Nowadays, children aged 5 to 16 spend a staggering 6.5 hours a day in front of a screen. When compared to the three hours in 1995, it’s a dramatic increase. “And dry eye symptoms can have a strong impact on children’s lives; making it more difficult for them to perform at school and to do activities such as reading and using a computer.”

Dr Allamby also revealed how nutritional supplements of omega-3 fatty acids work as an anti-inflammatory and can be used to prevent dry eye disease. You can also get omega-3 from eating flaxseed oil and oily fish. And you should take extra special care to avoid dry eye if you’re a contact lens user because you risk accidentally tearing the front of your cornea off. As ice grips Britain, forecasters the Weather Company said this week temperatures could drop as low as -8C with, ‘forecast models indicating a cold risk across the UK at the beginning of March.’

Source: Express UK

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