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Dry Eye Disease affects more than 5 million people in the United States, with 3.3 million being women and most of those being age 50 or over. And as people live longer, dry eye will continue to be a growing problem.

Although treatment options for dry eyes have improved recently, one of the most effective treatments is avoidance of dry eye triggers.

For some that might mean protecting your eyes from environmental triggers. To do that experts recommend using a humidifier in your home, especially if you have forced hot-air heat; wearing sunglasses when outside to help protect your eyes from the sun and wind that may make your tears evaporate faster; or being sure to direct any fans  - such as the air vents in your car - from blowing directly on your face. For others, it may mean avoiding medications that can cause dry eyes.

There is one other trigger that may need to be avoided that doesn’t get as much notice: the potentially harmful ingredients in cosmetics.

Cosmetics do not need to prove that they are “safe and effective” like drugs do. The FDA states that cosmetics are supposed to be tested for safety but there is no requirement that companies share their safety data with the FDA. There are also no specific definition requirements for labeling cosmetics as “hypoallergenic,” “dermatologist tested,” “ophthalmologist tested,” “sensitive formula” or the like, making most of those labels more marketing than science.

Things to watch out for in your cosmetics if you have dry eye include:

Preservatives

Preservatives are important to prevent the cosmetics from becoming contaminated but many are known to exacerbate dry eye. Common preservatives in cosmetics that could be adding to your dry eye problems (Periman and O’Dell, Ophthalmology Management August 2016) are: BAK (Benzalkonium chloride); Formaldehyde-donating (yes, Formaldehyde!) preservatives (often listed as DMDM-hydantoin, quaternium-15, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol); parabens; and Phenoxyethanol.  All of these preservatives in sufficient quantities can cause ocular irritation or inhibit the function of the Meibomian Glands that produce mucous that coats your tear film and keeps it from evaporating too quickly.

Alcohol

Alcohol is used in cosmetics mostly to speed the drying time but the alcohol can also dry the surface of the eye.

Waxes

Waxes can block the opening of the Meibomian Glands along the eyelid margin. If these glands are blocked they will not be able to supply the mucous and lipids necessary to the tear film to prevent it from drying too quickly. If you have trouble with dry eye it would be advisable not to apply eye liner behind the eyelashes along the lid edge where the Meibomian gland openings are.

Anti-aging products

While these may be safe and effective for the skin of the face they should not be used around the eyes. Most of these products contain some form of Retin A. These products have been shown to be toxic to the Meibomian glands and could be contributing to your dry eyes.

These components of cosmetics do not adversely affect everyone. However, if you suffer from dry eye and are not effectively able to keep your eye comfortable and your vision clear, you should investigate your cosmetics as a potential contributor to your problem.

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

The content of this blog cannot be reproduced or duplicated without the express written consent of Eye IQ

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Ask Dr. Stewart Your Eye Care Questions

What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.