Opera singer Kathye Gary-Adams is pretty religious about getting her eyes checked.
"I have to get checkups every 4 to 5 months,” Gary-Adams says. “Because a blood vessel burst in my left eye, and I was blind for , like, 9 months. I thought I was losing my mind."
"The patients complain of itchy, burning eyes,” Dr. Khalifa says. “(They) complain of fluctuation in vision."
Dr. Khalifa says dry eye is especially common in women over 40, and can be caused by everything from hormonal changes to an autoimmune disorder like Lupus.
Warning signs can include sensitivity to light, redness, and the sensation that you have something stuck in your eye.
"One of the first things people notice when they wear contact lenses is that dry eye will make contacts uncomfortable," Dr. Khalifa says.
Staring at a screen can make dry eye symptom worsen.
"When you're looking at a TV or a screen or a monitor, you blink less,” Khalifa says. “If you have symptoms while using an iPhone or iPad or some sort of mobile device, it's good to take a break."
In rare cases, chronic, untreated dry eye can cause scarring and blurred vision.
But, the problem is usually pretty easy to treat.
"In most cases, you can treat dry eyes with something like warm compresses, artificial tears or punctal plugs, where we close off the drainage of the tear film," says Dr. Khalifa. "Omega 3 fatty acid supplements have been shown to help with dry eye. Seeing your eye doctor to make sure it is really dry eye and not something else like a lash that is misdirected or a cataract that is causing blurry vision."
Environmental factors like indoor heating and air-conditioning can also dry out your eyes, as can certain medications like diuretics used to lower high blood pressure and antihistamines use to treat allergies.
If you’ve tried artificial tear eye-drops and aren’t getting relief for dry eye, you may want to get the problem checked out.
"Because you really don't want to play with your eyes,” says Kathye Gary-Adams. “You really want to be able to see."