by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS intern
“Dry Eye Awareness Month,” recognized in July, marks an opportunity to increase public awareness about this eye condition, which can lead to vision problems. Nearly 16 million Americans experience dry eye and it is more common among individuals over the age of 50, women, and contact lens users. It occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears to stay wet or when tears dry up too quickly or “don’t work well enough to keep your eyes wet.” Dry eye can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam and treated with eye drops, prescription medications, or with lifestyle changes, such as using a humidifier and drinking “plenty of water.” Left untreated, severe dry eye can sometimes damage the cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of the eye, and can lead to vision loss. Concern is heightened this summer in light of unprecedented environmental conditions of smoke and poor air quality. USA Today reported that in the wake of smoke caused by Canadian wildfires and firework displays during the 4th of July holidays, the air may have temporarily worsened. Environmental factors, such as pollution and smoke, may exacerbate dry eye among other eye and health conditions, as explained in a recent issue of this Bulletin. A new episode of the Prevent Blindness Focus on Eye Health Expert Series, “Dry Eye and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD),” provides additional information. It features April Jasper, OD, FAAO, Advanced Eyecare Specialists, who shares her experience as a dry eye patient as well as an eye care provider. Prevent Blindness also provides free resources on dry eye, including fact sheets and shareable social media graphics available in English and Spanish, and a dedicated web page. For additional details, read the press release announcing that Prevent Blindness Declares July as Dry Eye Awareness Month to Educate Public on Eye Disease that Affects more than 16 million Americans. More information is also available from the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) webpage on Dry Eye and the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health webpage highlighting that July is Dry Eye Awareness Month.