Dry-eye hot spots can aggravate your symptoms and make you miserable. If you are already having trouble keeping your eyes moist, or if you suffer from dry eye syndrome, you may want to stay away from some of the hottest, driest, windiest, and dustiest parts of the country.
At the very least, you should stock up on your artificial tears and lubricants before you go to any of these places on vacation or decide to pack up and move there.
The map below has been provided by the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM):
As you can see, California is almost completely covered in red. According to the USDM, 73 percent of Texas experienced some of the driest conditions ever recorded during the first five months of 2015.
Not only does this directly affect millions of Californians with dry eye syndrome, but the drought is causing other environmental problems such as wildfires, wind, and dust—all of which can make dry eye symptoms much worse. Five of the ten dry eye cities in the US are in California.
Why is Dry Eye Syndrome Worse in These Cities?
There are numerous causes for Dry Eye Syndrome. Most people do not realize that their environment, particularly the city they live in, can be the major cause of their discomfort.
Living in the right part of the country, or even the a different part of a city, can lessen your chances of getting dry eyes and lessen your symptoms if you’ve already been diagnosed with dry eyes. Here’s a closer look at the major causes of this eye condition in these cities:
- Temperatures: Extreme hot or cold temperatures can cause significant damage to your eye. Both hot and cold temperatures are known to cause dehydration.
- Humidity: Areas with little to no humidity can cause great discomfort if you suffer from dry eyes. Buying a humidifier will help the situation, but you can’t spend all your time in the house.
- Wind: Wind can kick up dust and dirt and whip them right into your eyes at any given moment. This causes irritation and makes you rub your eyes, which dries them out even more.
- Altitude: Higher altitudes are harder on the eyes due to the relative lack of oxygen. On the other hand, lower altitudes provide more oxygen, which keeps your eyes clear and moist.
- Pollutants: High levels of ozone and particulates can sting and scratch your eyes. Add a little bit of wind and you’ll be wishing for a new set of eyes. Pollutants like smoke, smog, and exhaust fumes can cause even more irritation and suffering.
- Ocular allergens: Allergens can cause extreme discomfort, itchiness, redness, swelling, and wateriness in your eyes. This will lead to constant rubbing or constant use of artificial tears or lubricants, which at that point isn’t any better than rubbing.
Other things that can cause dry eye or make symptoms worse are:
- Dry indoor air: This can be relieved with the help of a humidifier.
- Contact lenses: Most people with dry eyes refuse to wear contacts because the irritation of having something in their eye is too much to handle.
- Car air vents aimed at your face: This can be avoided simply by redirecting your vents and changing your air filters often.
- Medications: Dry eyes can be caused by some high blood pressure medications, antidepressants, heart medications, antihistamines, decongestants, muscle relaxants, sleeping pills, and pain relievers. Drugs for Parkinson’s disease and gastric ulcers will also make your dry eye symptoms worse, as will hormone therapy, particularly estrogen therapy.
- Computer use: Sitting in front of the computer for extended periods, whether for work or leisure, can dry your eyes out. People who use their computers too much forget to blink, and the less you blink the dryer your eyes become.
- Hair dryers: Drying your hair with a hair dryer is routine for some people, but the extra airflow doesn’t help dry eyes. The blowing air can also kick up pollutants in the room.
- Certain foods: Chocolate, colas, coffee, and tea all contain caffeine, which robs your body of moisture. Try avoiding these foods and drinks if possible.
Talking to Your Eye Doctor
Here are some questions to ask your eye doctor about dry eyes and the city you live in:
- Which over-the-counter products can help my dry eyes in dry conditions?
- What are my treatment options?
- How often should I see you because of my dry eyes?
- I’m thinking of moving to another part of the country where the climate is not so dry; can you refer me to an eye doctor there?
- What can I do around my house to add moisture to the air?
- What other steps can I take to lessen my dry eye symptoms?
- The Environmental Protection Agency, Severe Drought, http://www.epa.gov/naturaldisasters/drought.html
- US Drought Monitor, July 21, 2011, US Drought Monitor Map, http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/
- The National Women’s Health Resource Center, Top 100 Dry Eye Cities, http://www.healthywomen.org/