By Denis Langlois
Dry eye affects up to one-third of Canadians and there are indications that the numbers could climb due to the aging population and a higher use of digital devices.
“With increased screen time and longer work days from increased usage of computers, televisions, e-readers, gaming and smartphones, dry eye is becoming one of the most common conditions I see as an optometrist,” says Dr. Judy Parks, an optometrist at the Ancaster Eye Clinic and a professional development consultant with Alcon Canada.
The high incidence of dry eye is being observed across the country, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, which says it is one of the most encountered conditions in optometric practice with a reported prevalence ranging from 7.8 to 29 per cent.
Optical experts say since dry eye is a chronic condition with no cure, artificial tears are the best option for immediate relief at home and are a first-line therapy for mild forms of the disease.
Companies like Alcon Canada, Johnson & Johnson Vision, Bausch + Lomb and Bayer have products available to help address the symptoms of dry eye and provide patients with much-needed relief.
Eye care professionals are also working to get the word out about the important role ECPs can play is helping patients to identify the type of dry eye they have and create a plan on how to treat it, which can, depending on the severity, include prescription medication or in-office treatments.
Many things can cause dry eyes, with the most common being a person’s immediate environment – use of computers, heaters or fans can each be factors – as well as aging, says Dr. Kirsten North, CAO policy consultant.
Many medical conditions are also associated with dry eye including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, Sjogren’s syndrome and many autoimmune disorders, she says. Dry eyes are frequently a side effect of numerous medications as well.
Dry eye can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to serious. They can include stinging, burning, scratchy or uncomfortable eyes as well as pain, redness or, in some cases, excessive production of tears.
“Dry eyes can be annoying, uncomfortable and even painful, but aside from that, if left untreated they can cause you to be light sensitive and can blur your vision, potentially permanently. And, since tears carry the eyes’ immunity to infections, a lack of tears can make you more susceptible to eye infections,” says North.
In most cases, a person’s comfort can be improved and their eye health maintained through the use of artificial tears and other treatments. Changes in diet and treating an underlying disease can also be helpful.
Alcon Canada recently introduced SYSTANE COMPLETE, the first all-in-one drop for all types of dry eye.
The company has also teamed up with well-known Canadian technology expert and reviewer Marc Saltzman to help spread the message to eye care professionals and consumers about the link between screen time and dry eye and the benefits of the new drops.
Saltzman tells Optical Prism magazine that Canada has among the highest smartphone usage rates in the world, at 71 per cent, and two-thirds of Canadians play video games regularly.
“To avoid dry eye, I try to take frequent breaks and more recently, I started to use Systane Complete, which are lubricant eye drops that work instantly to rehydrate eyes,” he says.
Parks says the symptoms of dry eye and digital eye strain are very similar and include tired eyes, blurry vision, red eyes, watery eyes, stinging, pain, burning, grittiness, scratchiness and discomfort.
“More and more often, I’m seeing patients in the clinic who are experiencing dry eye because they are forgetting to blink while concentrating at their computers or they are not taking regular breaks from their near work to allow their eyes to refocus and relax,” she says.
SYSTANE COMPLETE is ideal for all three causes of dry eye, as it replenishes the tear film, reduces inflammation, stabilizes the tears and is long lasting, Parks says.
Each drop is made up of tiny, nano-sized oil droplets which, combined with key ingredients, form a matrix of protection and deliver soothing moisture across the eye surface. This enhanced network of coverage provides prolonged hydration and lasting protection for optimal dry eye relief.
Bausch + Lomb also has drops, gels and other solutions available to help Canadians who suffer from dry eye.
The products include Soothe Restore lubricant eye drops, which moisturize the eyes to provide fast temporary relief of burning and irritation due to dryness. The drops contains Restoryl mineral oils, which help to protect against tear loss, relieve dry eye symptoms and address the most common cause of dry symptoms by restoring the thickness of the lipid layer.
Other Bausch + Lomb products for soothing irritated dry eyes include Moisture Eyes artificial tears, Liopsic ophthalmic drops and gels and DuoLube Ointment.
Johnson & Johnson Vision has several drops that provide relief from dry eye symptoms, including Blink Intensive Moisturizing Lubricant Eye Drops and Blink Moisturizing Lubricant Eye Drops. Both formulas mimic the eye’s natural tears to strengthen tear film and help provide quick relief from dry eye symptoms.
Johnson & Johnson Vision’s ocular surface disease product portfolio includes the LipiFlow Thermal Pulsation System, according to Kara Peterson of the company’s communications division.
The system, available in hundreds of private practices in Canada and the United States, uses Vector Thermal Pulse Technology to remove gland obstructions and stagnant gland content. Peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated the safety and long-term effectiveness of the drug-free system, Johnson & Johnson Vision says.
As for Bayer, the company’s hydraSense line include hydraSense for Dry Eyes, hydraSense Advance for Dry Eyes, hydraSense Night Therapy for Dry Eyes and hydraSense for Allergy Therapy, which provides effective, long-lasting relief of dry eyes and allergy symptoms.
Each hydraSense Eye Drop product contains a naturally sourced lubricant called sodium hyaluronate, which provides long-lasting hydration, prolongs tear breakup time and tear film stability and has been clinically proven to hydrate and protect the eyes by binding water to protect from cornea dryness.
Sodium hyaluronate is an effective eye lubricant and is clinically proven to provide long-lasting relief of dry eye symptoms by moisturizing, hydrating and protecting eyes against dryness.
Each of the hydraSense products are phosphate-free and can be used with contact lenses.