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In the News – A Recent Spike of Dry Eye Disease in Young Albertans

Your eyes sting or burn; they feel scratchy or pebbly. You notice redness and become extremely sensitive to light. These could be symptoms of dry eye disease. It is estimated that about 30% of Canadians experience similar symptoms associated with dry eye disease. Traditionally it was a problem found in middle-aged and older people, particularly in women. But, recently, an alarming increase in dry eye disease has been noticed in younger patients. Learn about how young Albertans are now being affected by the growing disease and how to combat it.

Causes of Dry Eye Disease

The surface of your eye is covered by a thin film called the tear film that provides lubrication to the external part of the eye and facilitates blinking. It is produced by the meibomian glands. This tear film is essential for clear vision and protection of your eyes. Your tear film is composed of many things, including minerals, proteins, natural antibiotics, and a host of other chemicals in addition to water, mucus, and oil. Numerous factors can disrupt the tear film.

Physical Factors

Older adults, in particular, can suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or inflammatory skin, which can lead to eye disorders. They can also get disruption in their tear production from medication. Women can have hormonal fluctuations which will affect tear production, such as with pregnancy or ageing. Some of these physical factors can affect younger Albertans. Anxiety medications and antihistamines can affect tear production. Even insufficient hydration and vitamin A deficiency can be a factor. If you suspect any of these factors, you should make an appointment with one of our Calgary eye doctors as soon as possible.

Environmental Factors

If you work in a smoky environment, you can experience severe eye irritation. Prolonged time in over-heated areas in the winter or over-airconditioned rooms in summer also causes irritation. With the pandemic causing work from home and online schooling, Albertans are using electronic devices more often. This has led to prolonged screen times, which causes condition eye doctors have termed "Computer Vision Syndrome." Young people spend more and more time on devices due to distance learning, personal smartphones and tablets and easy access to video games. This can lead to weakened vision, blurring, itchiness and dryness. Adults working from home can experience the same problems. Eye doctors are especially concerned about the growing number of young people already manifesting dry eye disease symptoms. This type of dry eye disease is caused by glare and flicker from the screen. The need to constantly focus and refocus is also a contributing factor. It has also been shown that people tend to blink a lot less frequently when using a computer which causes the eyes to dry out and blur more periodically while working.

What You Can Do

If you want to maintain your healthy eyes and ensure that it's not affected by dry eye disease, you can do a few things. Some excellent over-the-counter artificial tears help ensure you maintain the tear film over your eyes. In severe cases, you may be given a prescription for eye drops by your Calgary eye doctor. In the case of dry eye disease caused by prolonged screen time, the CNIB recommends adjusting the lighting to reduce screen glare. Raising your chair or lowering your screen to keep your computer at 15-20 degrees below your eyes might help as well. Try the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds, and take breaks every hour or so. Try closing or blinking your eyes every now and again. Finally, and most importantly, you should go for a routine eye exam in Calgary to catch any early symptoms. If you have questions or concerns, call one of our Calgary offices in Shawnee or Kensington. We also have a clinic in Regina for our fellow Saskatchewanians.


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