What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic eye condition characterized by burning eyes, scratchiness and dryness. Although one cure for all dry eyes has not been discovered, sometimes an underlying cause can be found and treated, and in almost all cases the symptoms can be managed.
Non-medical dry eye relief
Exposure to wind, dust and sunlight can worsen dry eye, so wear wraparound style sunglasses when you go outside to protect your eyes from the elements. Indoors, a humidifier can reduce dryness due to cooling or heating systems, and if you know you’re home or office is dusty, wipe away the dust and air it out.
Diet also plays a role, so you may be advised to make some easy changes, like being diligent about drinking enough water, and taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements to relieve dry eye symptoms.
Eye drops for dry eyes
One of the first lines of treatment your optometrist might recommend is artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops to relieve the dry, feeling and gritty sensation that often accompanies dry eye. If over the counter dry eye treatment is not working well, our optometrists can prescribe stronger eye drops which can actually enhance your own natural tear production.
It’s a good idea to check with us, even before picking up non-prescription eye drops, especially if you wear contact lenses. Some eye drops are not good lubricators, many contain irritating substances themselves, and there are eye drops that are not safe for use with contacts. Even with good rewetting drops, the relief is only temporary, so our patients with dry eyes often find they have to use the eye drops many times a day. However, we may be able to solve the problem by simply switching contact lens brands.
Other causes and treatments for dry eye
Dry eyes are a known side effect of certain medications, so it’s important to mention any drugs you are taking on a regular basis. Switching to another medicine or stopping it altogether if it is not necessary often resolves the dry eye problem. Never change or stop your medicines without consulting with your primary care doctor first. In this situation, the advantages of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of overly dry eyes.
Punctal plugs may be recommended for severe dry eye. They are tiny silicon plugs which are inserted into the draining ducts in the corner of your eye to keep your tears moisturizing your eyes for more time.
Diagnosing and treating an underlying cause is most helpful. For example eyelid infections, such as blepharitis, are a treatable cause of dry eye syndrome. Treatment may include for steroid or antibiotic drops, eyelid scrubs and warm compresses.
Dry eye and LASIK
If you are considering LASIK or other corrective eye surgery, you should know that dry eyes may be a contraindication. Dry eye syndrome is associated with more difficult recuperation after eye surgery including LASIK, so the majority of surgeons will require you to address the dry eyes beforehand. We can help you relieve your dry eyes.
Learn more about Dry Eye
If you want to find out more about symptoms and causes of dry eyes, check out our blepharitis article in the Your Eye Health section.