Treating Dry Eye

If you suffer from dry eye disease, then you know how annoying it can be. Along with dryness, other symptoms that you can experience in association with dry eye include itchy eyes, the feeling of grit or something being in the eye, stinging or burning of the eyes, sensitivity to light, as well as blurred vision. It is a condition that occurs when your eyes are unable to produce enough natural tears. Things such as age, certain medical conditions, being on certain medications, as well as having had laser eye surgery can all be contributing factors to the development of dry eye. You are also at an increased risk of developing dry eye if you are over the age of 50, a woman, consume a diet that is low in vitamin A, and if you wear contact lenses.

In many cases, dry eye is most commonly and most effectively treated with eye drops known as artificial tears, which help to “recreate” tears and keep your eyes well lubricated as well as provide relief from irritation. These come in many different brands and forms and are available to purchase at any pharmacy. In cases where dry eye is severe, patients may require the advice of an eye specialist (known as an ophthalmologist) and they may decide to write a prescription for stronger drops or offer alternative treatment plan.

When picking which type of dry eye drops you are going to use, it’s often all about personal choice, but you have the option of choosing drops that are either with or without preservatives (which will often say preservative-free on the packaging itself.) Eyedrops with preservatives usually come in a multi-dose bottle that contains chemicals which discourage the growth of bacteria upon opening. However, drops with preservatives may cause temporary irritation of the eyes depending on the severity of your condition. These drops are also usually not recommended to be used more than twice a day (morning and night.) Whereas preservative-free drops come in single-dose vials, have less added chemicals, and can be applied as many as four times per day. In some cases, your family doctor, optometrist or ophthalmologist may also give you the OK to use preservative-free drops as much as necessary. If you are still not noticing any relief after giving these drops a try for a few weeks, it’s important to let your health provider know. They may also decide to prescribe you a drop to control inflammation of the cornea (the surface of your eye), such as Restasis, as well as corticosteroid eye drops, though corticosteroid drops are only recommended to be used on a short-term basis. If inflammation is contributing to your dry eye, it could also be possible that you have an infection. In this case, antibiotics would be prescribed which can come as tablets, or in the form of eye drops depending on the medication chosen by your doctor.

Along with using eye drops, you can also try things at home to help find relief. For example, you can try to unblock your eye’s oil glands by applying a warm compress over your eyes for 10 minutes at a time — just be sure that the compress is not too hot. It’s also important to keep your eyelids clean — and continue to use artificial tear drops even when your eyes feel “fine” and as if they are well lubricated.

Originally published at on August 22, 2019.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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