While dry eye isn’t typically a vision-threatening condition, it can have a major impact on your quality of life. You may find your eyes burn or feel uncomfortable, or you may notice blurry or fluctuating vision. Let’s take a look at dry eye treatments – from simple self-care to innovative prescriptions and therapies – to help you see clearly and comfortably.
Dry eye occurs when a person doesn't have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears reduce eye infections, wash away foreign matter, and keep the eye’s surface smooth and clear. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or their tears are of poor quality. It’s a common and often chronic problem, especially in older adults.
Before we delve into more serious dry eye treatment options, here are a few simple self-care options that can manage minor cases of dry eye.
Blink regularly when reading or using a computer for long periods of time.
Make sure there’s adequate humidity in the air at work and at home.
Wear sunglasses outside to reduce sun and wind exposure.
Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water each day to avoid dehydration.
Daily hot compresses on your eyelids can help maintain oil gland function important for healthy tears.
For most cases of dry eye, over-the-counter artificial tears will be used to help reduce symptoms. Here are a few tips for selecting the right one:
Low viscosity – These artificial tears are watery. They often provide quick relief with little or no blurring of your vision, but their effect can be brief, and sometimes you must use these drops frequently to get adequate relief. Low viscosity artificial tears can be water or oil-based. Your optometrist will provide guidance on which type is best for you based on the cause of your dryness.
High viscosity – These are more gel-like and provide longer-lasting lubrication. However, these drops can cause blurring of your vision for several minutes. For this reason, high-viscosity artificial tears are often recommended at bedtime.
There are several prescriptions that treat dry eye differently. Your eye doctor can advise the best option for your situation.
Contact Lenses – There are specialty contact lenses that deliver moisture to the surface of the eye. They’re called scleral lenses or bandage lenses.
Antibiotics– If your eyelids are inflamed, this can prevent oil glands from secreting oil into your tears. Your doctor may recommend antibiotics to reduce inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory drugs – These are eye drops to control inflammation on the ocular surface that contributes to dry eye. Restasis, Xiidra, and steroid eye drops are all examples of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Autologous blood serum drops – For serious dry eyes that are not responding to other treatments, these eyedrops are made with a sample of your blood. It’s processed to remove the red blood cells and then mixed with a salt solution.
Punctal Plugs – Tiny silicone plugs can be placed in the tear drainage ducts in the eyelids to reduce tear loss and keep tears on the eye longer.
Amniotic Membranes – Biologic tissue in the form of a thin membrane is applied over the cornea to promote healing in cases of severe dry eye.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy – This utilizes pulses of light to liquefy and release hardened oils that have clogged glands in the eyelids.
You don’t have to suffer from the symptoms of dry eye. Talk to your optometrist about dry eye treatment options designed to address the underlying cause of your condition.