Many people give up wearing contact lenses when their eyes become uncomfortable or itchy but that may not be the cause of their problems. Aylesbury optician Mr Vaja of Nu-Sight Opticians says that they might be suffering from dry eye. Although this condition is extremely common, it is often disregarded, which can lead to mild and in some cases severe problems with one or both eyes. National Eye Health Week is highlighting the benefits of regular eye checks.
Optician Mr Nat Vaja says, “A significant part of my patient base is elderly and they often complain of gritty and/or watery eyes. Many of my contact lens wearing patients have also complained of blurred vision and a burning sensation during lens wear and some have even considered discontinuing lens wear.”
Mr Vaja was one of the first opticians in the country to participate in a trial by Altacor, the ophthalmic products specialists, and No7 the contact lenses manufacturer. It included the use of a special diagnostic kit to help identify dry eye. Mr Vaja has now developed a strong diagnostic procedure, which gives him confidence to identify symptoms of dry eye.
Mr Vaja explains that the diagnostic kit contained stains to highlight the problematic parts of the eye and a simple dry eye questionnaire to assess the degree of dry eye.
“Before participating in the trial I used to offer some non-specific eye drops to soothe the irritation. Now having used the diagnostic kit I am more confident in understanding the cause of the problem and have seen the benefits of eye drops and lubricants that are specifically designed to target the different parts of the tear layer to treat dry eye.
Gareth Thomas of specialist ophthalmic products company, Altacor, says: “Lubrication of the eye is very sophisticated. The eye is bathed in a film of tears every time you blink. This film has a watery inside contained by an oily outside layer to reduce evaporation, and a lubricant on the innermost layer nearest the eyeball. These delicate layers can easily be disrupted by medication.”
The characteristic symptom of ‘dry eye’ is scratchy or itchy feeling eyes that look red rimmed. However, the eye can also overcompensate resulting in watery eyes. This makes the condition difficult to recognise despite being very easy to treat which is why we developed the test.”
“Fluorescein stains the cells on the cornea and reveals damage here. Just as dry skin is eased with hand cream these cells also benefit from lubrication. The Lissamine Green shows degeneration of the conjunctiva.”
Mr Vaja comments, “The kit is very useful in revealing dry areas and also to show up lid wiper anomalies – a very common cause of discomfort among contact lens wearers due to increased friction along the lid margin. Together these stains provide a good indication of what is going on.
Tony Hodgson, Sales Executive from No7 Contact Lenses has been analysing feedback from the trial and said that many of the opticians, like Mr Vaja, have since gone on to set up dry eye clinics themselves following their experiences with the kit. He says:
“The test is very quick, and easy to do, providing instant results and a potential solution. We had anticipated that we would keep the cards after the opticians returned them but they have found them so useful that they want to retain them to include in the patient’s records. Some practitioners have also amended the cards to add their own questions and incorporate the procedure as part of a dry eye clinic, which is excellent.
“Often opticians don’t realise that a problem with the tear layer may make a patient’s eyes uncomfortable and instead offer replacement lenses. However using Clinitas Soothe or Hydrate may be sufficient to solve the problem.”
More information about dry eye is available on the Clinitas blog
Written by Nina Beadle