Dry Eye Treatment
There is no cure for Dry Eye Syndrome, but once you are diagnosed properly, you and your eye care professional can take steps to prevent and treat severe symptoms. Dry eye does not discriminate: if you live in the right environment or sit in front of the computer all day, dry eye can easily develop. Here are a few things you can do before you begin to experience serious symptoms:
- Drink Water: Water is the best way to keep your body hydrated, especially if you live in dry, hot, or cold locations where dry eye is common. And it is usually free.
- Sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses outdoors can help the light sensitivity you may experience with dry eye. Wearing sunglasses can also help keep dust and debris out of your eyes on windy days.
- Location: The environment you live in can play a crucial role in dealing with dry eyes. If possible, try living in a location that is not dry, dusty, windy, or extremely hot or cold. Learn more about the Top Dry Eye U.S. Cities
- Clean More: Doing simple chores regularly, like dusting your living room and bedroom, can reduce the amount of pollutants in your home. Vacuuming regularly will also remove most of the dirt on your floor. Changing your air filters at least once a month can help to keep new pollutants from entering your home when you run your air conditioner or heater.
- Humidifiers: Running a humidifier in your home can increase the amount of moisture into the air, especially if you live in the desert. Humidifiers are known to help reduce symptoms of dry eye.
Dry Eye Treatment Options
Treatment for dry eyes may require treating an underlying condition. For example, if your dry eyes are caused by the condition known as Sjogren’s syndrome, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) or steroids may be included in your dry eye treatment plan. Common dry eye treatments include:
- Restasis: Restasis is the first prescription of its kind. It was not until 2002 that the US Drug and Food Administration approved this treatment. In general it is recommended to people who get no long-term symptom relief from artificial-tear eye drops. This treatment increases the body’s ability to produce its own natural, healthy tears by treating one underlying cause of the disease-inflammation. Restasis is available by prescription only.
- Artificial Tears: The brands Refresh and Optive Advanced come preserved in bottles and non-preserved in one-use-tubes. These are just two of several products for dry eye that treat all three layers of the tear film. They provide oil to the tear film’s lipid layer to minimize evaporation; water to the aqueous layer to keep the eyes wet; and an ocular lubricant to the mucin layer to keep the cornea lubricated. As mentioned before, artificial tears also come with preservatives. Many people are sensitive to preservatives in artificial teardrops, so you should choose brands without preservatives if your eyes are very sensitive. Also, if you are using over-the-counter tear drops, make sure you read the labels carefully, as some are recommended for things like getting the red out, and do not help with moisturizing.
- Silicone Plugs: This is a non-surgical procedure that involves plugging the upper and lower lids where tears drain into your nose. Tiny bits of silicone are placed in these openings to keep your tears in your eyes and keep your eyes from drying out. These plugs can be temporary or permanent, depending on the severity of your symptoms, and the process is painless.
- Acrylic Plugs: This is a new type of punctual plug that becomes a soft gel when it is exposed to your body heat. It is a one-size-fits-all plug, so measurement is unnecessary. It works just the same as the silicone plugs.
- Hydrogel Plugs: This too is a new kind of punctual plug that expands into a soft, pliable gel when inserted into your tear-duct canal. If this plug needs to be removed, your eye care professional can simply flush it out with saline solution.
- Surgery: Surgery is a last resort, and is usually for people who cannot handle plugs being inserted into their tear ducts. Instead of using plugs, the tear ducts are surgically closed. This is a minor procedure that may also include partially sewing the eyelids together to decrease tear evaporation.
- Natural Supplements: Natural supplements such as flaxseed oil and Omega-3 are a great way to help you ease your dry eye symptoms. Fatty acids are proven to do this. You will find that eating more cold-water fish like salmon, herring, cod, and sardines will provide you with all the Omega-3 fatty acids you need. Staying away from caffeine can also reduce your dry eye symptoms, as caffeine is known to dehydrate. Some of the natural supplements you can find in your local store are TheraTears Nutrition, HydroEye, and Hydrate Essential.
Any one of these preventive measures or treatment options may reduce symptoms of dry eye. Always remember to blink, especially when performing tasks that require eye strain such as looking at a computer screen, reading a book, or knitting. On average, a person blinks twenty times per minute. Try increasing this to thirty or forty times per minute if dry eye is becoming a problem. If dry eye symptoms are a problem for you, consult with your eye care provider.
Natural Dry Eye Treatment
Several nutritional and herbal supplements are known to reduce symptoms of dry eye. Take a look at the chart below to learn more about various supplements:
|Supplement or Herb||Directions for Use||Comments|
|BioTears (biosyntrx)||Take two gel caps twice per day||Offers a complete formula for dry eye relief|
|Black currant seed oil||Take 3,000 mg daily before bed||Supplies essential fatty acids that promote circulation|
|Coenzyme Q10||Take 80 mg per day||A powerful antioxidant|
|Fish oil||Take 3 tbsp per day||High in vitamin A; re-moisturizes eye tissue|
|Vitamin A||Take 2,500 IU per day in tablet form or apply drops directly to the eye||Keeps eye tissues moisturized|
|Vitamin B6||Take 50 mg per day||Regulates kidney function|
|Vitamin C||Take 7,500 mg per day||A powerful antioxidant|
|Chamomile||Use warm as an infusion or cold as an eyewash||Offers support to the eye tissues|
|Goldenseal||Use warm as an infusion or cold as an eyewash||Offers support to the eye tissues; do not use during pregnancy; do not take internally for more than 1 week|
Chart courtesy of Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, Smart Medicine for Your Eyes, p213
What’s New in Dry Eye Treatment?
The manufacturer TearScience of North Carolina announced in 2011 that their product, the Lipiflow Thermal Pulsation, would be available in the United States by the end of the year. The FDA-approved medical device may one day replace eye drops as the most common dry eye treatment option here in the US. The Lipiflow Thermal Pulsation was previously available only in Europe and Canada. The purpose of the device is to eliminate gland blockages. The manufacturer’s main target is the 65 percent of patients who suffer from dry eye due to problems with their meiboman glands, or whose eyes are not lubricated enough due to their failure to produce lipids. The single-use eyepiece warms and massages the eyelids, melting the build-up clogging the glands. The procedure takes twelve minutes per eye and is performed in your eye doctor’s office.
Talking to Your Eye Doctor
If you suffer from dry eyes, talk with your doctor about possible treatment options. Here are some questions to help you get the conversation started:
- Based on the severity of my condition, which dry eye treatment options do you think will work best?
- If the initial treatments fail, what will be the next steps?
- Which new symptoms should I watch for that may indicate another problem has developed?
- At which point will we consider surgery?
- Are you aware of any new dry eye treatment products on the market?
- What can I do to relieve symptoms while I’m at work?
- Which over-the-counter products do you recommend, and which ones should I stay away from?
- How often should I schedule follow-up visits for my dry eyes?
- M. Beers, MD “The Merck Manual of Medical Information” second home edition (Pocket Books, 2003) 1301
- J. Anshel, MD “Smart Medicine for Your Eyes” (SquareOne Publishing, 2011) 209-214