The right dry eye treatment depends on a variety of factors, from the severity of symptoms to the conditions or reasons for your dry eye. According to a recently published scientific literature review of dry eye, approximately 20 percent of Americans suffer from some form of dry eye – most patients are women and over the age of 50.
If you are among those dealing with dry eye – whether occasional or mild symptoms or persistent symptoms that impact your quality of life – treating dry eye and finding relief is a priority. Many with seasonal, mild symptoms can manage with over-the-counter eye drops – also known as artificial tears. But there are circumstances that require more be done and there are different therapies that help address the different causes of dry eye.
To help best manage your dry eye symptoms, it is important to work with your ophthalmologist to thoroughly evaluate the health of your eyes – this includes the surface of the eye (the cornea) as well as the lids, tear ducts and lashes. Some people have an underlying issue that when treated can clear up the dry eye symptoms. However, the medical evaluation will inform the recommended course of dry eye treatment for your specific condition which may include:
Prescription Medications for Treating Dry Eye
- Medications to reduce inflammation on the surface of the eye or along the edge of the eyelids. These might include antibiotics taken by mouth. Other medications are in eyedrop or ointment form.
- Tear-stimulating medication may be prescribed to help increase tear production. These may be in pill, gel or eyedrops.
Therapeutic Dry Eye Treatments
- Tiny inserts that slowly dissolve, releasing lubrication to the eye.
- Autologous blood serum drops, made from the plasma in your blood, may be produced and used to help nourish and lubricate the eye.
- Therapeutic contact lenses, called scleral or bandage lenses, are designed to help hold tears onto the surface of the eye.
- Special devices available at the eye doctor’s office that deliver light therapy, gentle lid warming, massage or compression to help unblock and stimulate the oil glands (Meibomian glands) in the edge of the eyelids.
Procedures for Treating Dry Eye
- Inserting plugs into the tear ducts located in the inner corners of the eye. Called punctal plugs, they are usually made of either silicone or collagen and are designed to partially or completely block tears from draining from the eye.
- In severe cases of dry eye, the punctal ducts can be permanently sealed by a process called thermal cautery.
Other Dry Eye Treatment Recommendations for Helping to Alleviate Dry Eye Symptoms
- Evaluate necessary medications and, in consultation with the prescribing physician, see if alternatives without the dry eye side effects can be substituted.
- Stop smoking and reduce exposure to second hand smoke.
- Nutritional supplements may be recommended to ensure adequate levels of fatty acids
- Daily thorough lid cleansing and warm compresses may be suggested
- Over the counter artificial tears, gels and ointments are often recommended to deal with mild or occasional symptoms.
- Discontinuing or reducing contact lens wear may be prescribed by your eye doctor as many long-term contact lens wearers complain of dry eye symptoms.
People who experience dry eye symptoms can take comfort in the fact that there is a lot of science and innovation in the field of treating dry eye. To take advantage of the latest options, it is important to have a thorough conversation with your eye doctor. Share your symptoms and overall health with your doctor. The best recommendation for a dry eye treatment is usually based upon the most complete information and, as you just read, there are many options to consider for treating your dry eye.