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Dry Eyes vs. Red Eyes: How To Know and What To Do About It

Woman with Hand Above Dry Red Eyes


Red eye and dry eye syndrome are quite easily confused. Both conditions include itchy, red and dry-feeling eyes. A person who has dry eye syndrome will often think that their red, dry, itchy eyes are nothing more than something minor, like allergies, and live a long time with the severe comfort that comes with dry eye syndrome. He/she will find that, regardless of what measures are taken, the condition does not change significantly and an eye doctor must be consulted to bring relief. Fortunately, Dr. Todd Cohan, O.D. in Long Grove, IL is very familiar with the symptoms of dry eye syndrome and how to treat it. Dr. Todd Cohan, O.D. has compiled some points of essential knowledge below, to help his patients recognize the indications of this uncomfortable and painful eye condition in a more timely fashion so that they can prevent prolonging the pain and discomfort of this extremely uncomfortable.

Dry Eye Syndrome in Long Grove

Dry eye syndrome is characterized by itchy, red, dry feeling eyes that do not get better unless professional medical help is obtained. Optometrists generally discuss two broad causes for dry eye syndrome. Either:

  • The eyes don’t make enough tears, and the eye cannot be comfortably hydrated


  • The eye produces tears which are flawed. They often lack one or more essential parts normally included in tears to allow them to properly coat and hydrate the eye.

The leading defense against either of these forms of dry eye syndrome is a type of specialty eye drops called “artificial tears.” These special eye drops to combat the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye syndrome by imitating real tears as closely as possible. In order to do this in the best way possible, there are many different formulations of artificial tears. Each formulation addresses a different underlying cause of your dry eye. Some help to address the issues of dry eye syndrome in which tears are lacking in quantity and others will add one or more building blocks to your tears to help them better perform their intended function.

Red Eyes

Red eyes are generally not as worrisome as dry eye syndrome and you shouldn’t worry too much about them. In most cases, red eyes are caused by allergens or foreign substances, which can cause your eyes to become irritated. Small blood vessels throughout your eyes then become inflamed and enlarged, becoming much more visible and turning your eyes a reddish hue. This is where the term “red eyes” comes from.

Many times, red eyes will heal up and return to normal without any medical attention at all. A note of caution, however: The great number of conditions that can cause dry eyes makes it very hard to know exactly what the cause may be sometimes. If your red eyes are accompanied by a high fever, headache and/or a great deal of eye pain, go to the doctor immediately. This note aside, red eyes are almost always minor and should not cause anxiety unless accompanied by these additional symptoms.

Even with a brief but comprehensive explanation such as this, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between these two similar-looking conditions. If you feel your red eyes maybe something more, come see Dr. Todd Cohan, today. Located in Long Grove, we provide dry eye treatment for Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, Lake Zurich and neighboring areas.

Preventing Dry Eyes During Air Travel

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Dry Eye Traveling to and From Arlington Heights

It is not uncommon to experience exceedingly dry eyes after long periods of travel in the air. The temperature- and pressure-controlled cabin of an airplane creates a very dry environment that can easily take its toll on your eyes.

Fortunately, our eye doctors have outlined a number of steps that a person can take to reduce the chances of experiencing these uncomfortable symptoms that present themselves as part of what is often called “travelers’ dry eye.” Below are some tips to help you avoid dry eyes when traveling:

  • Dehydration has the potential to make dry eye symptoms much worse. Be sure to have a drink on hand at all times, making sure to drink before, during and after your flight. Alcoholic beverages and caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee may increase the chances of dehydration and those who enjoy these types of beverages in-flight should be sure to drink extra fluids to compensate.
  • Artificial tears are another important item of defense against dry eyes. Having a bottle of artificial tears with you at all times during your trip will allow you to apply them as needed. This can help out a great deal. Those with chronic dry eyes should speak to their doctor before their flight to discuss the possibility that they may need a more effective lubricant for the flight.
  • Sleeping in-flight can also dry out your eyes. If you take a nap while in the air, be sure to wear an eye mask. This will help minimize the dry air that reaches your eyes while you sleep, reducing the chances of dry eyes.
  • Contact lenses also tend to increase the chances of dry eyes, even under normal conditions. This is even more true in especially dry air of the airplane cabin. Those who wear contact lenses should consider switching to a pair of glasses during the flight to cut out this increased risk.
  • The air conditioning vent above your seat is also a source of dry air that is blown directly onto your eyes. Turning off this vent can do a great deal to prevent dry eyes.

For more information about how to save yourself the discomfort of dry eyes on your next plane trip, consult your Arlington Heights eye doctor today.

Contact Lenses for Dry Eyes

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Dry Eye Treatment in Long Grove, IL

Contact lenses are typically a very comfortable way to see with crisp vision. In fact, most people forget that they are wearing them. However, if you suffer from dry eye – contact lenses can lead to a slew of uncomfortable or painful symptoms. Approximate five million Americans suffer from dry eye, so if you have this condition, you are far from alone. Fortunately, a range of contact lenses for dry eye are now available. Our Long Grove, IL eye doctor will perform a thorough eye exam to assess your condition and recommend the best dry eye treatment and type of contacts to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable.

What is dry eye?

Dry eye syndrome occurs when you do not have enough tears or your tear composition is poor. Either way, there is an inadequate amount of lubricating moisture on your eyes. This is what can make wearing contact lenses into a painful experience. Classic symptoms include a sandy or gritty sensation in your eyes, redness, stinging or burning, and itchiness.

Why does dry eye happen?

There are several causes for dry eye, ranging from normal aging to specific medical conditions to side effects from certain drugs. Contrary to popular belief, contact lenses do not usually cause dry eye – but they can certainly make it worse. Contacts coat the surface of your eye, which decreases the amount of oxygen that reaches your eye and also inhibits your eye’s ability to heal. In addition, people with dry eye already have sensitive corneas, and contacts raise the risk of corneal irritation even higher.

Our detailed eye exam will identify the cause of your dry eye in order to prescribe the most effective, personalized dry eye treatment. If you want to wear contact lenses, the results of your eye exam will also help us to figure out the best contact lenses for dry eye to recommend.

Specialized Contact Lenses for Dry Eye

Soft contacts are made from a breathable, flexible material called hydrogel, which has high oxygen permeability. They come in a few versions, such as disposable dailies, regular daily wear, and extended wear lenses. Dailies can provide a comfortable and healthy type of contact lenses for dry eye. Basically, they are discarded before any irritating protein deposits can accumulate on the lens surface. When it comes to daily, weekly, and monthly contacts, each respective type features a unique composition that promotes high moisture retention. We carry a complete inventory of premium, brand-name contacts in our Long Grove, IL, optical office, and our eye doctor will recommend the most appropriate type of contact lenses for your dry eye.

Another option is scleral lenses, which are rigid gas permeable lenses that have a different shape than standard contact lenses. They feature an extra-wide diameter, which vaults over your eye and rests on the sclera (white part of your eye). Because of the way sclerals bridge the eye’s surface, they leave a gap between the lens and your eye. This space becomes a wet reservoir for moisture, which can resolve eye irritation for people with dry eye syndrome.

Visit Your Long Grove, IL, Eye Doctor for the Best Contact Lenses for Dry Eye

A diagnosis of dry eye syndrome doesn’t mean you need to give up on wearing contact lenses! There are a number of contact lens options that can give you clear and comfortable sight. If you suffer from dry eye irritation, contact us to schedule a contact lens eye exam and fitting. We will recommend dry eye treatment and discuss the various brands and types of contact lenses on the market in order to find the most helpful type.

Are Dry Eye Symptoms Interfering With Your Work?

sara dry eye story

Sara, a medical receptionist with Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome tells her story.

“My name is Sara and I am a medical receptionist. I had just started a new job a medical receptionist and I am on the phone and computer a lot answering emergency phone calls and reading. I have chronic dry eye and I had been on an urgent triage phone call one day and my eyes were itching and painful so much that I had to rub my eyes and I had completely forgotten an important detail that I had to ask them to repeat the question. It was so frustrating.”

“I need to be able to concentrate on my job and be 100% focused in those crucial moments when lives are on the line. I don’t need to be distracted by uncomfortable, painful eyes. I went to the pharmacy that evening after work and picked up some over the counter eye drops, artificial tears to use every few hours. But this was only a temporary solution.”

“My right eye constantly tears up and I have to wipe it a lot, I think it has to do a lot with the amount of phone and screen time, the amount of reading emails and reports and just living my normal working day. I had let my dry eye symptoms go for so long and I was ignoring the discomfort and pain that it just got to the point where it was interfering with my work. I finally realized that my symptoms were real and not just coming out of nowhere I had to find a permanent. I had to face the fact that I have Chronic Dry Eye and awareness is the first most important step to managing it. I went to my eye doctor. The optometrist ran some tests to determine the cause of my symptoms and told me that there are more advanced ways of treating dry eyes. He said I cannot just go to the local drug store and pick up eye drops and think that it will solve the problem of chronic dry eye.

“He informed me of some really amazing technologies and helped to understand why I have the symptoms that I do. He recommended the lipiflow procedure, which was 15 minutes and really helped. I love my job and now I am more confident in handling those crucial moments without worrying about being distracted by my dry eye symptoms interfering with my work.”

Blephex – Prevention of Dry Eye Disease?

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Blepharitis is an infection on the base of the eyelashes caused by a buildup of microbes. This increases with age since you make less natural antibodies in your tears as you get older.
This buildup produces a film that traps debris and admits bacteria along the edge of the eyelid entering the tissue causing infection. This, in turn, reduces tear production leading to Chronic Dry eye.
Since the eyelids are difficult to clean at home, you can get your eyelids and lashes cleaned safely by your optometrist with BlephEx. This will quickly relieve your dry eye symptoms, and if caught early enough, averting Chronic Dry Eye Disease.
Blephex is a painless, carefully controlled procedure lasting 6-8 minutes, performed in an office visit by your optometrist, cleaning and exfoliating the edge of your eyelids and lashes.
Performed every 4-6 months this helps you avoid the damage to your tear glands, preventing Chronic Dry Eye Syndrome.