Taking A Closer Look At The Driver’s Vision Statement
March 1, 2009
The winter season can be really hard on a truck driver's eyes. The blowing defrost and heater fans in your cab can soon evaporate all the moisture from the surface of your eyes, giving you Dry Eye Syn...
The winter season can be really hard on a truck driver’s eyes. The blowing defrost and heater fans in your cab can soon evaporate all the moisture from the surface of your eyes, giving you Dry Eye Syndrome (DES).
A sign of Dry Eye Syndrome is that your eyes feel like they are burning, scratching or stinging. Or, they may feel strained or tired after reading or driving for just a short time. Probably, wearing contacts is also uncomfortable. Be aware, because DES can cause tiny abrasions on the surface of your eyes which may eventually lead to serious eye problems.
You get DES when your body doesn’t produce effective tears. When this happens, your eyes become irritated because they don’t have enough lubrication and they can’t wash away things that may harm the eyeball surface, like dust and foreign objects.
Ideally, for healthy, comfortable eyes and optimal vision, your body produces a thin film to coat the eye which is made up of three main layers.
The innermost layer is the thinnest and rests right against your eyeball. It is made up of mucus. The clear skin, conjunctiva, which lines the eye, creates this mucus. The mucus is then used to coat the conjunctiva, creating a slippery surface that allows the overlying watery layer to be evenly distributed over the eyeball.
The middle layer is the largest and the thickest. This layer covers the mucus layer and is actually just a very weak saltwater solution. The two tear glands that produce this watery layer are the main tear glands and the accessory tear glands.
This middle layer keeps the eye moist and comfortable, and also helps flush out irritants such as dust, debris, or foreign objects that may get into the eye. When these tear glands are not working efficiently the salt ratio increases in the tear solution.
When this happens, water is drawn from the eyeball surface itself, to balance the solution, which makes the eyeball surface too dry. Thus, DES occurs.
The outside layer is made up of a very thin layer of fats or oils which are produced by oil glands in the eyelids. The oil in this layer helps maintain the moisture on
the eyeball by not letting the watery layer under it evaporate. If the oil glands become blocked or if the oil is too thick, there may not be enough oil to cover the watery tear layer and prevent its evaporation. Occasionally, a bacterial infection of the eyelids or eyelashes can break down this layer of oil, too, allowing excessive amounts of the middle layer to disappear. Again, DES occurs.
DES is a common disorder, affecting over 14 million people in North America. As mentioned, the two basic ways that someone can get DES are because of decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation.
You may start making fewer tears if you take some medications, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, beta-blockers, and oral contraceptives. Additionally, too much water may evaporate from your eyeball surface when you use your eyes for reading, watching TV, or driving. At these times, you may not blink as often as you should.
Some other general causes of DES include: aging, diabetes, hormonal changes, lupus, long-term contact lens wear, a dry environment, sun exposure, smoking and smoke exposure, physical eye problems like drooping eyelids or bulging eyes, previous eye surgeries, certain viruses and exposure to blowing hot or cold air.
If your eyes are bothering you, take these steps to make yourself more comfortable: Stop smoking. Stay out of drafts. (My husband covers the truck vents that blow into his eyes if he is unable to redirect the airflow). Try artificial tears. They come in drops or ointment, but I recommend drops because ointment can cause blurry vision. Humidify the air, when possible.
Concentrate on blinking more frequently, especially when you are focused on doing a vision-oriented task. Use hot compresses and eyelid scrubs/massage. (The heat warms up the oil in the oil glands, making it flow more easily and the massaging action helps get the oil out of the glands).
As well, take the time to rest your eyes. (Close them for a few minutes while sipping your coffee at the truck stop).
If you’ve already tried the above steps for a while, but your eyes still: hurt; burn or itch; are red; are sensitive to light; tear excessively; have blurred vision; or feel dry, gritty, scratchy or filmy; have your condition diagnosed by an eye doctor.
Definitely get medical advice if you have having flaking, a discharge or a lesion on your eye or eyelid. These symptoms may lead to permanently damaged eyesight!
Everyone sees that good eyesight is fundamental for a truck-driving career. So, make caring for your eyes part of your own driver’s ‘Vision Statement.’
-Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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