Got Dry Eye? These Treatments and Medications Can Provide Relief
When you experience a momentary scratchy, burning sensation in your eyes, it’s usually due to a minor irritation that disappears once your tears wash out the eyelash or speck of dust causing the discomfort.
If this discomfort persists, you could be experiencing dry eye.
Left untreated, dry eye — also called dry eye syndrome — isn’t just uncomfortable. It can permanently damage and scar your cornea, leading to irreparable vision loss. If you have dry eye, your eye doctor can provide a comprehensive dry eye examination to find the cause and prescribe the appropriate treatment to keep your eyes healthy and your vision clear.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye is a common problem caused by decreased tear production or poor tear quality. Every time you blink, you leave a thin film of tears over the surface of your eyes. This helps keep your vision clear and your eyes healthy. If your tears can’t adequately keep the surface of your eye moist, you will experience some or all of these symptoms:
- Irritation – a gritty, scratchy or burning sensation
- Blurred vision
- Excessive tearing
- Foreign body sensation – a feeling of something being stuck in your eye
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Dry Eye Treatments and Medications
There are various dry eye treatments and medications that can reduce dry eye symptoms. Your eye doctor may recommend only one of the following dry eye treatments and medications or a combination, depending on the cause and severity of your condition.
Your eyelids include tiny glands that produce the essential oils for your tears. When these oil glands are plugged or inflamed, it can lead to poor quality tears and dry eye symptoms. Try applying warm compresses to the eyelids to open blocked glands and allow them to release natural oils into the tear film. You can also use over-the-counter eyelid scrubs to clean the eyelids.
Your eye doctor may also have in-office devices that can effectively open up these tiny glands and restore the oil back into your tears.
Dry eye is often treated using eye drops called “artificial tears.” There are two categories of artificial tears:
- Eye drops with preservatives – This type contains chemicals/preservatives that discourage growth of bacteria once the bottle has been opened. Preservative eye drops often come in multidose bottles.
- Preservative-free eye drops – This type of eye drop has fewer additives and is generally recommended if you apply artificial tears more than four times a day, or if you have moderate or severe dry eye. Preservative-free eye drops may come in single-dose vials.
Artificial tears are also available as nonprescription gels and gel inserts, but they may temporarily cause blurred vision.
Your eye doctor will be able to advise which eye drops will be the most effective.
Conserving the tears in your eyes is another way to keep your eyes moist. Tears drain out of the eye through a small canal into the back of the nose. Your eye doctor may recommend closing these canals by inserting a punctal plug. These plugs are used either temporarily or permanently in order to conserve your own tears and make artificial tears last longer.
Restasis and topical steroids
Restasis is a medicated eye drop that is used to reduce inflammation on the ocular surface and increase the production of tears. Topical steroid eye drops can also be used for a short period of time to reduce inflammation.
In more severe cases of dry eye, your eye doctor may prescribe serum tears. These drops are specially created from a patient’s own blood. Serum tears have growth factors and other nutrients that can decrease dry eye symptoms.
Special contact lenses called scleral lenses provide relief for people with severe dry eye syndrome. Sclerals help prevent irritation by vaulting over the cornea instead of sitting on the cornea. By filling the resulting dome with sterile saline solution, sclerals become an artificial tear reservoir, providing constant lubrication to the eyes and allowing oxygen to reach the cornea. Each lens is customized for each patient’s eye.
Intense pulsed light treatment (IPL)
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is a severe form of dry eye caused by poorly functioning glands in the eyelids. For dry eye caused by MGD, IPL treatment warms the eyelid, which reduces inflammation in the blood vessels of the eyelid. This can open up the blocked glands and allow the vital oils to flow into the tears again.
There are many ways to treat dry eye syndrome. We provide custom treatment plans designed to maximize the relief of your dry eye symptoms and treat the underlying cause of your discomfort. If you’re seeking relief for your dry eyes, Dr. Heather Shear O.D. can help. Contact us to book your appointment today!Northwestern Eye Associates Dry Eye Center serves patients from Mt. Dennis, Toronto, York, Rockcliffe Smythe, and throughout ON.