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Understanding Dry Eye

understanding dry eye

What Is Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome & How Do You Know You Have It?

We do so much with our eyes. We work, we play, we adore—but so much of what we do with our eyes we take for granted. Eye care means not ignoring dry, itchy, rough eyes or sporadic blurry vision. It means taking care of your eyes, eating right and seeing your Arlington Heights eye doctor regularly.

Ever wonder why your eyes are so dry, itchy, teary, gritty, or painful?

It can start with a feeling that your eyes are irritated or itchy or maybe it feels like something is in your eyes but when you look, nothing is there.

You could have Chronic Dry Eye, also called Dry Eye Syndrome or Dry Eye Disease. The signs of Chronic Dry Eye are different for each person, but some of the most common are:

  • Scratchy Itchy Eyes
  • Irritated or Painful Eyes
  • Grittiness like you have sand or something in your eyes
  • Redness or a Burning feeling in your eyes
  • Watery Eyes or Blurry Vision
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Eye Tension or Fatigue
  • Discomfort Wearing Contact Lenses

These symptoms come and go but never seem to go away completely. It’s imperative that you find out what is really happening to your eyes and get a dignosis.

Guessing vs. Knowing

You may not be aware, but Chronic Dry Eye in Arlington Heights is one of the most common eye problems today. At least 16 million Americans have dry eyes, however estimates differ greatly, with some experts saying that as many as 90% of computer users experience dry eyes on a regular basis.

Here’s What The Experts Say:

Dr. Cohan sees patients from all over the greater Chicago area, with many of his patients initially assuming that other issues are responsible for their symptoms

“You may think you need to get new glasses, or change your contact lenses, or you think you have an allergy or an infection inside your eye, but you may really have Dry Eye Disease.” He notes that many patients think that living with theses symptoms is “just the way it is”, thinking that there is nothing that can be done .

Is it allergies or dry eyes?

I just had a patient this past week and she’s been using a really good prescription allergy drop, an antihistamine. She said, “you know what, even though I’m using this my eyes still feel dry and scratchy throughout the day. My previous doctors have told me it’s allergies.”

First of all, it’s really cold outside. So if people have allergies at this time of year in Chicago it’s only because of mold or dust. So, there’s no really environmental allergies, no pollen – the count is very low.

All too often, allergies are confused and it’s really dry eye. Because in dry eye, the typical symptom is called the “foreign body sensation”. Almost like you have an eyelash feeling or a little piece of grain stuck in your eyes – like a sandy feeling. So, it feels like scratchy and gritty. If the doctors are not looking carefully or they’re calling for an eyedrop over the phone, “here are some allergy drops let me know if that makes it better.”

But really what’s happening is the tears on the surface of your eyes are so thin that they break apart. It’s like when you get your car waxed the water beads up. Those little dry spots, because there is not enough oil in your tears, create a dry scratchy feeling. So you really should have a full-on assessment of a dry eye evaluation. Looking at your glands, looking at the surface of your eyes, looking at your tear productions, the inflammation – to really tackle that.

The thing about the dry eye treatments is that if you’re using the allergy drops, it actually could dry out the eyes even more, especially over-the-counter ones. The preservatives in the allergy drops actually irritate the eyes and cause more inflammation. So, what we often do is stop the allergy drops, assess the dry eye, treat the dry eye and then go from there. Often times, in hay fever season, which is in Chicago, April to July, and ragweed season, in August to October, we will prescribe an antihistamine eye drop, but very often it’s dry eye

Elements that Bring About and Worsen Dry Eye Syndrome

What are the different triggers and risk factors of Chronic Dry Eye?

Are you spending long periods of time:

  • Reading books
  • Watching TV
  • On the Computer
  • Driving in Arlington Heights
  • Being in a Dry Climate, or Exposed to Air Pollution
  • Over 50
  • Female: using birth control pills, during pregnancy, or menopause.
  • Have Allergies
  • On medication
  • Have an infection
  • Stress & Inflammation

Important note about digital device induced dry eye symptoms: looking at the screen of your computer, phone or tablet for long periods of time can create eye stress. This leads your immune system to respond with inflammation which stresses your eyes even more—creating a never ending cycle. Furthermore, computer usage can lead to digital eye strain which is also linked to many of the symptoms listed above. In addition, research shows that digital device users not only blink less frequently, they also blink less fully. All of these elements contribute to a huge increase in dry eye symptoms for people who are regular users of computer, cell phones, and tablets.


Be aware of these signs because it is your body trying to tell you that something needs to be addressed. Talk to our eye doctor at the Midwest Dry Eye Center and find out for sure what is really going on with those precious peepers. If you do have Chronic Dry Eye disease, know that it is a condition that only gets worse over time and may lead to corneal scarring which can permanently affect vision. Luckily there has never been a better time for dry eye sufferers, the latest technology allows our eye doctor to thoroughly asses the causes of your dry eye symptoms and provide effective solutions such as Lipiflow, Blephex, Xiidra, and Scleral lenses to combat and eradicate your discomfort.