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Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon talk 'The Morning Show'

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The health dilemma remained a mystery to US actress Jennifer Aniston for years. Until she was diagnosed she was left suffering with irritating and recurring symptoms so much so that she became addicted to what she thought was the solution to the problem. In fact even after diagnosis, Jennifer still suffers with the condition today.

When asked in an interview ‘Do you have anything you’re addicted to?’ Jennifer replied: “Well, eye drops!” Although this might sound strange initially, the actress had been using eye drops excessively to try and cope with the condition dry eye disease, which she had been suffering with for years and had not even realised.

Talking about the condition to Health she said: “I’ve had dry eye for years, I just didn’t know what it was. I just thought that these were my eyes and I had allergies. My eyes are light, so I thought they were more sensitive to the outside elements.”

Dry eye disease occurs when tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes or tears evaporate far too quickly. This can make them increasingly sore, itchy and red. Due to these symptoms it is easy for individuals to think that it is just hay-fever or another type of allergy. Data collected by Thea Pharmaceuticals found that 36 percent of individuals with symptoms of dry eye disease are unaware of the condition with 32 percent of these sufferers waiting to see if symptoms go away by themselves.

“I really didn’t know, plavix sexual side effects and I was just constantly using eye drops.” Jennifer added. “It got to the point when I was using eye drops two to three times every hour to feel relief because it was so painful and so irritating and itchy. It got in the way of the joys of my daily life. Reading scripts starts to become impossible. I was getting headaches. My eyes were swollen and irritated.”

Symptoms such as these are extremely common for dry eye sufferers and can be persistent, or flare up in certain environments such as the beach or in long grass. Jennifer noted that her eyes would become irritated even in her sleep. Not knowing whether she would wake up with irritated or swollen eyes or not.

In order to remedy this she turned to any form of eye drop she could that would relieve the pain. She said: “ I just did everything. I’d get the strongest ones you could buy. And it’s like, These are gonna burn. The bigger the burn, the better the eye drop. Then you keep using them and they lose their effectiveness.”

The condition got so bad that it interrupted the star’s hectic work schedule. She recalled that it is makeup, specifically glittery eye shadow, that causes the worst irritation. The actress now completely refuses to wear the beauty product, comparing it to “little razors in [her] eyeballs.”

Optometrist Sarah Farrant was able to demystify the condition. Talking to the Express.co.uk she said that confusingly, those that suffer with dry eye disease actually get quite watery eyes. This is because the quality of the “tear film” has been affected in some way. Tear film is the most complicated substance your body produces, so any imbalances to this causes irritability.

Talking about the symptoms of the condition Dr Farrant stated that blurry vision is another good indicator to suggest that you might be suffering from dry eyes. Good tear quality is essential for good vision and without the quality, vision will be similar to “looking out of a windscreen with a bad windscreen wiper.”

According to the NHS, individuals are more likely to suffer with dry eye disease if they do one or more of the following:

  • Wear contact lenses
  • Look at computer screens for a long time without a break
  • Spend time in air conditioned or heated environments
  • You smoke or drink alcohol
  • You take certain medicines (for example, some antidepressants or blood pressure drugs).

In addition to this list, Dr Farrant also condemns the use of false eyelashes. She said: “Lashes are really important across the eye surfaces to avoid particles entering the eyes and the minute you put things like fake eyelashes on you can potentially be allergic to the stuff that’s in the chemicals and the glues which can then interfere with the tear film.”

An uncontrollable risk factor of dry eye disease is gender. According to Dr Farrant, women over 40 are the highest risk factor group due to hormonal changes. When women go through the menopause process the quality of the secretions from glands often differ leading to an increased risk of dry eye.

Treating dry eye disease

As Dr Farrant explains, the condition is easily treatable. Although not curable, many people manage to live with the disease. However, as Jennifer Aniston found out, some of the treatments, such as eye drops, may not help the condition at all. Dr Farrant was able to explain why this might be.

“A lot of over the counter eye drops contain preservatives, which hasn’t been shown to be very good for the ocular surface of the eye. So it is better to avoid preservatives.

“If you’d like basic entry level management you can go to a pharmacist or optometrist and get some lubricant drops and artificial tear drops – preservatives free of course.”

For a longer-term solution to the disease Dr Farrant suggested the use of specialist equipment and even lasers. This method, known as intense pulsed light (IPL), forces glands known as the meibomian glands to function. Meibomian glands produce the oils within tears and without oils you lack lubrication.

Regular deep cleans of the eyes are also another form of treatment. This occurs on a regular basis at a specialist clinic.

In a YouGov survey conducted by it found that a third of Brits ignore regular eye tests and Dr Farrant warns that those who ignore these bi-annual appointments are more at risk of conditions such as dry eye.

She added: “You wouldn’t necessarily realise that you had early dry eye disease and if you ignore it then you can get irreversible damage to the glands. Then it is a bit like going to the dentist once you’ve lost half your teeth!”

Individuals who are experiencing any sort of fatigue, eyestrain and irritable eyes it is important to seek the advice of an optometrist and not ignore the issue. Eye examinations can also detect a variety of diseases using specialist technology. To find out more about the symptoms of dry eye disease visit: www.youreyehealth.co.uk/symptom-checker.

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