Dry eyes or dry eye syndrome (DES) is condition where the eye is either producing poor quality or not enough tears. The symptoms of dry eye include dryness, scratchiness and a burning sensation. It is often associated with auto-immune diseases such as arthritis and is more common in women after menopause. It can also be a side effect of certain medications including allergy/sinus medications and bladder medications.
Treatment for dry eye may include the use of lubricant eye drops or artificial tears as a first step. Insertion of a plug in the tear drainage system (punctual plugs) may also help, as they keep the tears on the eye longer. Prescription eye drops may also help increase your tear production and reduce the inflammation that is usually associated with dry eye.
If you wear contact lenses, contact lens rewetting drops may be sufficient to make your eyes feel better, but the effect is usually only temporary. Switching to another lens brand or cleaning solution may also help.
Check the label, but better yet, check with your doctor before buying any over-the-counter eye drops. Your eye doctor will know which formulas are effective and long-lasting and which are not, as well as which eye drops will work with your contact lenses.
To reduce the effects of sun, wind and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound styles offer the best protection.
Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating.
Doctors sometimes recommend special nutritional supplements containing certain essential fatty acids (Omega 3) to decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water may also relieve symptoms.
Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs.
If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until your dry eye condition is successfully treated. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.