Gregg Moody, M.D.
Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic and typically progressive condition. Depending on its cause and severity, it may not be completely curable. But in most cases, dry eyes can be managed successfully, usually resulting in noticeably greater eye comfort, fewer dry eye symptoms, and sometimes sharper vision as well.
Because dry eye disease can have a number of causes, a variety of treatment approaches are used.
The following is a list of dry eye treatments that are commonly used by eye doctors to reduce the signs and symptoms of dry eyes. Your eye doctor may recommend only one of these dry eye treatments or a combination of treatments, depending on the cause(s) and severity of your condition.
Also, some eye doctors will have you complete a questionnaire about your symptoms prior to initiating dry eye treatment. Your answers to this survey are then used as a baseline, and the questionnaire may be administered again after several weeks of treatment to evaluate the effectiveness of the chosen treatment approach.
Successful treatment of dry eyes requires that you are willing to follow your doctor’s recommendations and that you use the products he or she recommends consistently and as frequently as directed.
For mild cases of dry eyes caused by computer use, reading, schoolwork and other situational causes, the best dry eye treatment may simply be frequent use of artificial tears or other lubricating eye drops.
There are many brands of artificial tears that are available without a prescription. The challenge with using artificial tears is not lack of product availability — it’s the confusing number of brands and formulations available to choose from.
Artificial tears and other over-the-counter (OTC) lubricating eye drops are available in a wide variety of ingredients and viscosity (“thickness”).
Artificial tears with low viscosity are “light” and watery. They often provide quick relief with little or no blurring of your vision when you apply them. But often their soothing effect is very short-lived, and sometimes you must use these drops very frequently to get adequate dry eye relief.
On the other hand, artificial tears that have a high viscosity are more gel-like and can provide longerlasting lubrication. But typically these drops cause significant blurring of your vision for several minutes immediately after you apply them. For this reason, these drops often are not a good choice for use during your work day or when you need immediate clear vision for tasks such as driving. Instead, highviscosity artificial tears are recommended only for bedtime use.
Also, the ingredients in certain brands of artificial tears may determine which type of dry eye condition they are better suited for. For example, one brand might work better for aqueous-deficiency dry eyes, while another brand may be more effective for an evaporative dry eye condition.
If your eye doctor recommends that you use one or more brands or formulations of artificial tears, be sure to follow the directions he or she gives you concerning when and how often you use the drops.
Also, do not substitute different brands from those your eye doctor recommends. Using a different brand or multiple brands of artificial tears will make it difficult to assess the success of the dry eye treatment your doctor recommended.
Other Dry Eye Treatment Considerations
Your eye doctor may recommend one or more of the following supplemental measures if any of the conditions below apply to you:
Medication adjustment. Many medicines — including antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills, certain blood pressure medications and more — can cause or worsen dry eye symptoms. Even over-the-counter (nonprescription) medications for allergies and other conditions can cause dry eyes.
Be sure to discuss all medications you are taking with your eye doctor if you are experiencing dry eye problems. In some cases, adjusting the type and number of medications you are taking may help reduce dry eye symptoms without causing adverse health effects.
However, never discontinue a prescription medication without first discussing the matter with your physician. If your eye doctor feels an adjustment to one of your medications may help relieve dry eye symptoms, he or she can discuss it with your physician (or have you discuss it with your doctor) to see if such a change is possible.
Treating eyelid conditions. Blepharitis, Meibomian gland dysfunction or other eyelid conditions are often associated with dry eye disease and should be addressed as part of your overall dry eye treatment regimen. For example, if you have blepharitis, your eye doctor may recommend use of an antibiotic and/or steroid ointment or eye drop in addition to daily eyelid cleansing with a non-irritating shampoo.
Discontinuing or reducing contact lens wear. If you wear contact lenses, it can be difficult to tell if an underlying dry eye condition is causing contact lens discomfort or if your contact lenses are causing dry eye symptoms. If you wear contacts, it’s often best to discontinue wearing them (or perhaps switch to daily disposable contact lenses for part-time wear only) while your dry eye treatment is in progress.