Demystifying dry eye prevention
Welcome to Dry Eye Awareness Month... take 14! Yes, this really is the 14th year since Dry Eye Awareness Month was launched. And it's going to be the best ever! This week, we're going to start by talking about dry eye prevention.
We live in an increasingly drying world.
We live in environments, engage in activities, and constantly interact with things that cause or contribute to dry eye. They are everywhere. In our homes, our diets, our workplaces. The a/c in our car, the medications on our nightstand, the medically necessary and the elective surgeries we undergo. The HVAC. The contact lenses we've been wearing for 30 years. The eyedrops we use most days. Our computers, tablets, and phones.
Every day, maybe all day, and for some, even all night, we are interacting with and embracing things that are drying out our eyes.
Drug manufacturers are perhaps the only ones who have truly woken up to the demographics of the dry eye epidemic, but even they have been stymied for years by an FDA dry eye drug approval process which, frankly, has been broken ever since Restasis got approved on its third try back in 2003.
What does this mean for us?
How do we care well for our eyes in an increasingly drying world?
How do we identify and grapple with the modifiable dry eye risk factors in our lives?
If we only have mild or intermittent dry eye, what preventive steps can we take?
If we already have chronic dry eye, how can we best care for our eyes in the midst of so many daily assaults?
These are questions we're going to be exploring in the coming days. I encourage you to embrace the opportunity to think about our eyes in terms of wellness. Too often, our eyecare world shrinks down to the concepts of disease and medical treatment. We need to take a few steps back from that and think about what our eyes need to be healthy and how we can provide those things.
We will, inevitably, have to be looking at a lot of dry eye risk factors, but I want us to look through a fresh lens. It's not about "Lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!". None of us needs that additional anxiety. Rather, it's about knowing what we need more of, and what we need less of, and then trying to do just a bit more of this, and a bit less of that.
For example, we need more... attention and savvy when it comes to eyedrop shopping.
...while we need less harmful drops like redness relievers and glaucoma drops with toxic preservatives.
We need more routines for daily preventive eye care...
...and we need less contact lens use and abuse.
We need more initiative, education, and confidence in our self-advocacy when considering medical treatments...
...and we need less blind faith in doctors (no matter how skilled), the industry and the regulatory authorities.
We need more... nope, scrap that. We need less screen time, period. I have no corollary to that one.
Every weekday for about the next ten days, I'll be writing on specific prevention topic. Follow along, and please jump in with your questions, comments and critiques at any time!
One last note: For those of you who suffer from chronic dry eye, I want to encourage you to embrace the role you can have in educating people around you. I know we all have our frustrations about people not understanding OUR experiences. But something we can do instead is to look around for aspects of dry eye that are more directly relevant to the people in our lives. Believe me, there are LOTS and I'm hoping my posts over the next several days will inspire some good conversations. Meantime, don't forget to share your dry eye story!