By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
According to a recent study conducted by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), nearly nine out of every 10 Mexicans suffers from dry eye syndrome, and the problem is growing, particularly in larger cities.
Factors such as air contamination, exposure to blue light (from computers and cell phones) and lifestyle choices have played a key role in the increase of dry eye syndrome in Mexico.
Other factors, such as genetic predisposition, climate and age (it is particularly prevalent in the case of women over age 40), can also increase the likelihood that a person will develop symptoms, which can include redness, irritation, itching, burning, sensitivity to light, eye fatigue and blurred vision.
“The bad news is that there is really no cure for dry eye syndrome,” explained ophthalmological surgeon Ivo Ferreira Ríos from Mexico’s Instituto de Oftalmología during a press conference organized by Alcon to introduce its latest eye drops, Systene Complete.
“The good news is that the condition can be treated, usually with the application of eye drops.”
But while artificial tears can help to relieve symptoms in most cases, Ferreira Ríos pointed out that not all eye drops are created equally, and not all are the right treatment for all types of dry eye syndromes.
“Dry eye occurs when the quantity or quality of tears fails to keep the surface of the eye properly lubricated,” he said.
“But there are several components to tears, and a shortage of malfunction of each of these different components can cause dry eye syndrome.”
Ferreira Ríos explained that tears have three basic layers: oil, water and mucus.
Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes.
Consequently, for some people, the cause of dry eye is the result of a decrease in tear production., while for others, it is caused by an increase in tear evaporation.
“That is why it is crucial to see an ophthalmologist and have him or her determine the source of your dry eye,” said cellular biologist Rosario Gulias, who also spoke at the Alcon conference.
“A type of eye drop that may help one patient with dry eye could actually be counterproductive in another patient.”
Only a qualified specialist should prescribe eye drops for people with dry eye syndrome, she said.
Notwithstanding, both Ferreira Ríos and Gulias pointed out that the new Alcon Systane Complete was developed to treat an entire range of dry eye problems.
Available in Mexico over the counter without a prescription, Systane Complete lubricating drops use nanotechnology to produce and improve tears in patients with both main forms of the condition.
Although not recommended for use by patients with contact lenses, the physicians said that these new drops could be used by most patients suffering from the most common types of dry eye.
“Generally speaking, the Systane Complete drops will not do any harm, which is why they are sold over the counter,” Gulias said.
“But you still need to have an ophthalmologist check out your condition with a thorough eye exam and have them prescribe drops that are specifically suited to you and your eyes.”