Have you been diagnosed with dry eye? If so, you’re not alone. More than 16 million Americans suffer from symptoms of dry eye, an uncomfortable eye condition that can cause irritation, burning sensations, blurry vision, eye fatigue, and ultimately, a reduced quality of life.
Fortunately, treating dry eye is possible. The disorder can be caused by multiple factors and treatment options can vary, but a number of remedies for dry eye exist–both prescription and at-home.
The first course of action for treating dry eyes is usually the use of artificial tears or other eye gels. For patients with mild symptoms, this treatment is often more than sufficient. A wide variety of eye drops exist, each with its own properties as well as pros and cons. Many can even be purchased over-the-counter.
Some types of prescription eye drops include:
- Restasis (cyclosporine)
- Xiidra (lifitegrast)
- Cequa (cyclosporine)
- Eysuvis (corticosteriod). These are the first ever FDA-approved steroid eye drops for dry eyes. They should only be used for the short-term–up to two weeks.
Punctal plugs are not recommended as a primary treatment because they cannot be used while a patient still has symptoms of dry eye. However, they may be a good option for aqueous deficiency dry eye or evaporative dry eye after patients have been treated for some time–possibly two or more months–and have some symptom relief. These plugs are small pieces of silicone that reduce the size of the tear ducts. Since one cause of dry eyes is tears evaporating too quickly, reducing the size of the tear ducts can allow tears to remain in your eye longer. This treatment can be effective, but in rare instances, it results in overly watery eyes. In this case, the plugs are removed.
While in some cases, contact lenses can be the cause of dry eyes, certain types of contacts can actually relieve dryness and discomfort. One such brand is called ScleraLenses. If you’re considering symptom-relieving contact lenses, discuss using them with your eye doctor beforehand, as they can come with risks.
Intense pulsed light
Intense pulsed light (IPL) is a treatment commonly used to treat rosacea, a skin disorder. But when it was discovered that IPL relieved symptoms of dry eye, the procedure became more widely adopted.
During an IPL session, a device shines specific wavelengths of light onto the skin, reducing inflammation and expressing the oil glands on the eyelids to clear blockages. Based on current studies, a patient needs about four IPL sessions spaced three to four weeks apart to start feeling better. Then a patient will need maintenance IPL sessions every three to six months, as needed. IPL can be used as a dropless therapy for dry eye, and there are really no side effects–only side benefits. The main side benefit is that skin starts to look better–IPL boosts collagen production and reduces cell damage. Beautiful youthful skin and reduced symptoms of dry eye–a win-win!
Various at-home treatments and lifestyle choices can be helpful in reducing dry eye:
- Use hot compresses. Use a daily heating mask at least 10-15 minutes per session. Then gently massage eyelids.
- Eyelid and eyelash hygiene. When you wash your face, wash your lashes, too.
- Reduce eye strain. If you’re a frequent computer user, take regular breaks. Use the 20/20/20 rule as a guideline–every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something 20 feet away. Staring at screens of any kind for long periods during the day can strain the eyes and dry them out.
- Try supplements. Convincing studies show that taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements can reduce the severity of dry eye symptoms by increasing the oil layer of tears.