The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) is highlighting the high prevalence of dry eye disease during their Glaucoma Awareness Week this year. It is estimated that 50-60% of those with glaucoma suffer from dry eye disease as well, and this is an issue that needs to be brought to light.
There are a few reasons those with glaucoma may also suffer from dry eyes. First of all, glaucoma tends to strike the older population (those over 40, with those over 65 having a higher risk). This population is also well known to be at a higher risk of dry eyes due to hormonal shifts, eyelid changes causing lid laxity, and changes in the tear film with age.
Another big reason those with glaucoma often end up with dry eyes comes down to glaucoma treatments. Unfortunately, many of the eye drops used to lower eye pressure (and therefore treat glaucoma) are well known to cause red eyes and dryness. This is just a normal side effect of the medications, yet it can become problematic for many people. Eye drops are usually the first line of defense when treating glaucoma, but those who suffer debilitating dry eyes because of them may need to opt for other treatments.
Although there's not much that can be done regarding age and the risk for both glaucoma and dry eyes, there are plenty of ways that those with glaucoma can combat other risk factors for dryness. First of all, if you're using a glaucoma eye drop to lower your eye pressure, you may want to speak with your doctor about switching medications. However, an even better option may be to have laser glaucoma surgery performed which may eliminate the need for eye drops. Just like any eye surgery, there is still a risk of developing dry eyes but the risk is lower than using glaucoma eye drops.
Other things you can do to combat dryness go back to what we preach every day. Hydration and diet. First of all, if you're not drinking half your weight in ounces of water per day (75 ounces for a 150 pound person), that's goal number 1! Buy a nice glass or stainless steel water bottle, keep it with you to fill throughout the day, and drink at least 16 ounces every time you think about being thirsty or wanting a drink. It works! Next, really take a look at your diet. Are you someone who frequents the fast food drive through or eats meat for every meal? I challenge you to check out our Green Smoothie Challenge group on Facebook, take a look at some of the smoothie and salad charts we've prepared for you, and consider making small changes to your diet that can improve not only the health of your eyes, but your entire body as well.
As always, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask! Do you suffer from glaucoma as well as dry eyes? We'd love to hear about your experience!
Do you have dry eyes or meibomian gland dysfunction?