How to Treat Dry Eye

Woman using eye drops for dry eye

Treatments for Dry Eye

You're more likely to suffer from dry eye if you don't make enough tears or the tears you make are low quality. Although the condition can be very uncomfortable, home remedies and treatments provided by your ophthalmologist can ease your discomfort.

What Causes Dry Eye?

Most of us have experienced dry eyes from time to time. You may have noticed that your eyes feel drier than usual when you take a walk on a windy day or spend time in a smoky room. Fortunately, eye lubrication usually improves once you move to a more comfortable environment.

If your eyes often feel dry, you may have chronic dry eye. The problem becomes more common as you get older. Dry eye may also be related to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy, perimenopause or menopause, or may happen if you take birth control pills.

Did your dry eye symptoms begin after you started taking medication for high blood pressure, depression, or allergies? Drugs used to treat the conditions may cause dry eye as a side effect. Certain conditions may also increase your dry eye risk, including eyelid inflammation, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, thyroid disorders, Sjogren's syndrome, or rheumatoid arthritis.

Other risk factors may include looking at digital screens for long periods of time, wearing contact lenses, or having LASIK or other refractive surgeries to improve your eyesight.

What Can I Do About Dry Eye?

Making a few simple changes to your routine can improve your comfort. If dry eyes and eyestrain frequently occur after you've been working on your laptop or playing video games, it may help to remind yourself to blink more often. Blinking releases tears and helps keep your eyes well lubricated. Taking frequent breaks and looking at an object 20 feet in the distance for 20 seconds every 20 minutes can also reduce dry eye symptoms.

Over-the-counter artificial tears add moisture to your dry eyes. Drops that contain preservatives last longer but may irritate your eyes. If this happens, switch to preservative-free drops instead.

When you're outside, wear wraparound sunglasses to reduce the effects of the wind and the sun on your eyes. Wearing sunglasses also reduces your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, a condition that causes the loss of central vision.

Applying warm compresses to your eye several times a day may also be helpful. The warmth can cause tears to start flowing by unblocking your Meibomian glands. The glands, located on your eyelids, produce the oily outer layer of the tear film. The oil prevents tears from evaporating too quickly and prevents dry eye. If the glands become clogged, you won't produce enough of the oily substance, and your eyes will soon feel dry and uncomfortable.

If your dry eye persists despite making these changes, your opthalmologist can offer a few treatment recommendations, including:

  • Prescription Eye Drops: If you have chronic dry eye, you may benefit from using Restasis or Xiidra drops. Restasis prompts your eyes to produce more tears and also reduces eye inflammation, while Xiidra stops an inflammatory response that causes dry eye symptoms and prevents changes that can occur in the surface of your eyes if you have dry eye. You may need to use these drugs for weeks or months before you notice an improvement.
  • Steroid Eye Drops: In addition to Restasis or Xiidra, your doctor may also recommend that you use steroid eye drops, particularly when you first begin using these medications. Steroid drops help reduce the inflammation that can make your dry eyes uncomfortable.
  • Punctal Plugs: Punctal plugs are tiny devices that fit into tear duct drainage ducts. They keep your eyes moist by preventing tears from draining from your eyes.
  • Lacrisert: The Lacrisert insert is added to your lower eyelid once a day and slowly releases a lubricant that lasts all day.
  • Unclogging Meibomian Glands: Your eye doctor may recommend a meibomian gland expression to remove clogs or suggest another treatment called LipiFlow. During Lipiflow treatment, a device placed over your eye uses heat to dissolve clogs.
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy: IPL is often used in conjunction with Meibomian gland expression to warm and unclog the glands and reduce redness and inflammation in the eyes.

Do you struggle with dry eyes? We can help you find the ideal treatment for your condition. Contact our office to schedule a convenient appointment.

Sources:

American Optometric Association: Dry Eye

American Academy of Ophthalmology: How Hormones Can Affect Eyes and Vision, 10/9/18

All About Vision Dry Eye Syndrome; 12 Ways to Get Relief, 7/19

Harvard Health Publishing: The Fix for Dry Eyes, 2/10/17

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