Dry Eye Treatment Options
No one wants to suffer from dry eyes. Not only are they uncomfortable, but they can send the wrong message as well. Say, for example, you are at a job interview and your eyes look red and inflamed. You wouldn't want to miss out on a good job opportunity just because you looked too tired now would you?
Signs and symptoms of dry eyes
The more common signs and symptoms of dry eyes include:
- Chronic eye irritation, which some liken to feeling sandpaper in their eyes or rubbing against the surface of their eye.
- Decreased tear production.
- Burning or irritation in the eye.
- Redness and inflammation of the eye.
- Chronic eye infections resulting from decreased tear production.
Causes for dry eyes
There are many causes for dry eyes. Sometimes dry eye simply results from chronic eye irritation. This may result from living in an arid climate or from hormonal changes, including those occurring during menopause or menstruation.
Some people experience decreasing tear production in the eye from medication use. Common culprits contributing to dry eye may include diuretics, steroid use and use of certain antidepressants. There is also some evidence over the counter medications including antihistamines may contribute to dry eye. In some cases, simply switching medication may be all that is necessary to help reduce the side effects or dry eye.
Certain medical conditions and treatments may also lead to problems with dry eyes. Diabetes, hypertension and rheumatoid arthritis can all lead to chronic dry eyes, as can LASIK surgery. The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP ) mask, used to treat sleep apnea and other sleep related breathing problems, is another common culprit. The constant flow of air around the edges of the mask and over the face can cause the tears to dry up, leading to painfully dry eyes.
Still others simply don't blink enough, perhaps because they use a computer too many hours during the day. Blinking is important for coating the eye in fluid. If you don't blink enough, clearly your eyes will suffer.
Fortunately there are many simple treatments you can use for dry eyes. Many you can buy over the counter!
Flax seed oil for dry eyes
Flaxseed oil is a nutritional supplement you can get at your local health food store. Many eye care professionals recommend supplementation with flaxseed oil or fish oils to help overcome dry eye, especially when it relates to living in a dry climate.
Flax seed oil contains essential fatty acids, nutrients our body needs to help function properly. Since our body is not capable of producing these essential fatty acids or omega-3 fatty acids on its own, it is important we get enough of them in our diet.
Unfortunately, most people don't eat enough foods containing essential fatty acids. This can result in dry eye. While not everyone will realize a reduction in dry eyes by supplementing with flaxseed oil, many will realize other health benefits. Essential fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body, help improve our immune response and may even protect against cardiovascular and other diseases.
Be sure you also take a good quality multi vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure your body is getting the vitamins, minerals and nutrients it needs to produce tears and function optimally. That combined with enough sleep each night and daily exercise may help improve your overall health and well-being, which ultimately will impact the health of your eyes.
Prescription medications for dry eyes
Sometimes dry eye is so severe medication is necessary to help overcome inflammation and irritation. The more commonly used medication used for dry eye is Restasis. This remedy is commonly prescribed patients experiencing dry eye resulting from LASIK surgery to correct their vision.
This medication helps the eyes product more tears, thus it not only helps relieve symptoms but also helps "cure" or address the problems resulting in dry eyes.
Another simple remedy may involve use of artificial tears. Your doctor may prescribe artificial tears to help temporarily overcome the signs and symptoms of dry eye, particularly if caused by medication use or temporary exposure to environmental causes including living in an arid climate.
Medications for dry eyes
In addition to good nutrition and supplements, there are a number of over-the-counter and prescription medications that your eye care professional can recommend for you. If the problem is mild or only occurs at certain times, he or she may suggest drops that that are used only occasionally, as symptoms occur. If you find yourself using these drops more often, needing more of them then recommended or they stop giving you relief, it's important to return to the doctor to explore other treatment options.
Some of the most common medications used for the treatment and relief of dry eye include:
- Systane Lubricant Drops
- TheraTears (this solution has been electrolyte balanced to be equal to that of human tears.)
- Tears Again Liposome Eyelid Spray (a good option for those who cannot use eye drops)
- Tears Again Hydrate Gel
Restasis, one of the most commonly known prescription medications for chronic dry eye is used to help the eye produce more tears, however it does not address the underlying cause of the dry eye and is not recommended for use in certain patients, including those who have a history of viral herpes infections of the eye.
Note that many medications for dry eyes should not be applied while contact lenses are in your eyes. With some, you may be able to put your contacts back a short while after applying the drops, with others you may not be able to wear them at all. So if you wear contact lenses, you should discuss this with your eye doctor when you're choosing a treatment option. In addition, contact lenses can irritate the eyes when there aren't enough tears, so they may not be recommended if you have chronic dry eye, or you may be asked to change to a different lens type.
If you use a CPAP mask and have dry eyes, your eye care professional may give you several options including lubricating ointments, drops or moisture goggles. Your eye doctor may also suggest using a humidifier in the room whenever CPAP is in use for the comfort of not only the patient’s eyes but their partner’s eyes as well, if they have one.
Punctal and intracanalicular plugs
In some cases, especially after medications have been tried and failed, there might be a need for punctual plugs (also called lacrimal plugs). There are two main types of these: absorbable and plastic. These are sometimes referred to as “temporary” and “permanent,” respectively, though those names are somewhat misleading, as even the permanent plugs can be removed and, while more long-term than the absorbable type, do not last forever.
Punctal plugs are placed in the drainage duct that connects the eyes to the nose, blocking the outflow of tears to keep the eyes moist. The top of these plugs is usually visible when looking closely at the eye. The plugs can be removed at any time and also sometimes fall out on their own as well.
Another type of plug, called an intracanalicular plug, is placed entirely in the drainage duct and isn't visible at any time. These plugs can be made of silicone or hydrogel and are designed to expand once placed in the canal, conforming to the size and shape of the individual duct. Like punctal plugs, intracanalicular plugs are removable; they can be irrigated out of the eye with saline solution by your eye doctor, if necessary.
Another option for chronic dry eye treatment is Lacrisert, an medication-filled insert is placed just inside the lower eyelid to give an extended release of artificial tears, usually for up to twenty four hours.
Only your eye care professional can help you decide which option is best for you and your overall eye health.
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