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Dry eye is a common condition that affects millions of Canadians every year. In Alberta, our arid climate and high amounts of farmland and prairie exacerbate dry eye risk factors and make it a bit more common here than it other areas of the country.
Most Canadians will experience dry eye first-hand at some point in their lives, whether it is a long-term affliction (called dry eye syndrome) or periodic/episodic in nature. Certain medications – namely, antihistamines – can cause dry eye as a side effect.
The good news is that even though dry eye may not always be “curable”, in the vast majority of cases it can be successfully treated and managed so that it has a minimal impact on your quality of life.

What Causes Dry Eye?

Improper lubrication of the eye, whether it’s from your body not producing enough tears naturally or if the tears it does produce are low quality (and evaporate from the eye too quickly), is the cause of dry eye.

Dry Eye Signs & Symptoms

Dry eye doesn’t have “signs” so much as it has symptoms. These symptoms range in severity, from mild to wild. They include:

  • A gritty sensation in the eye (as if there is something, like a grain of sand, stuck in it)
  • A burning or itchy sensation in the eye
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Excessive eye watering (of low quality tears that don’t actually provide lubrication)
  • A sticky, stringy discharge from the eye
  • Eye fatigue, a sensation of the eyelids feeling heavy

Some of the symptoms can be ambiguous, resulting in many people confusing their dry eye with allergic conjunctivitis (or vice versa).

Dry Eye Treatments

There are many ways dry eye is treated. Learn more about dry eye treatments.

Treating Dry Eye at Home

There are a few things that you can do at home that may help relieve your dry eye symptoms. Try:

  • Increasing the ambient air quality of your home – In Alberta, this almost always means employing the use of a specialized air filter as well as a humidifier. Alberta’s dry climate exacerbates dry eye- try keeping your home between 50% and 60% humidity to see if that helps.
  • Stay hydrated (drink lots of water)
  • Apply a warm compress to your eyes several times per day. This will help unclog some of the glands responsible for providing lubrication to the eye.
  • When outdoors, wear sunglasses/glasses to help keep wind, dust, and allergens out of your eyes

Written by Dr. Kyla Hunter

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