Dry eyes are uncomfortable and may also be unhealthy. Figuring out why your eyes are dry is the first step in treating the problem. Your doctor may want to test both the amount and quality of your tears. The goal in treating dry eyes is to keep your eyes moist.
Depending on the reason your eyes are dry your doctor may suggest one of these treatments:
• Fix your lids – if you have a condition that keeps your eyes from completely closing, your eye doctor may suggest plastic surgery on your eyelids to fix the problem. Some eyelid conditions can also be treated with ointments, drops, or oral antibiotics.
• Add tears – If your dry eyes are mild, you may be able to treat them with over-the-counter drops or artificial tears. Your eye doctor can recommend the best drops for your eyes. Check the label to see if your drops contain preservatives. If they do, you can use them safely up to four times a day. Drops without preservatives can be used as often as you like. Just keep track of the expiration date and be sure to replace them on time. Drops that promise to remove redness can actually make your dry eyes worse, so be sure to avoid them.
If you live in a dry climate, or your environment tends to dry your eyes, use your drops before your eyes feel dry, especially if you are going into a situation that you know usually causes your eyes to feel dry. You can also use lubricating ointments for the eyes. These ointments usually cause blurred vision, so they are best used only at bedtime.
• Conserve tears – Another method to reduce dry eye symptoms is to help your body keep your tears on your eyes for a longer time. Tears normally wash across the eye and then drain away through tear ducts that empty into the back of the nose. Your doctor may recommend partially or completely closing these tear ducts to keep your tears in your eyes longer. This can be done by inserting tiny silicone plugs in the ducts. These plugs can easily be removed at a later date. A more permanent fix involves numbing the area and then using a hot wire to shrink the tissues and close off the tear duct.
• Medications - Your doctor may prescribe a medication to decrease inflammation and increase production of healthy tears to treat your dry eyes. Steroid drops are also sometimes used to reduce inflammation
Relief for dry eyes
• Diet – Some studies show that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of dry eyes.
• Check your contacts – If you wear contact lenses, be sure to tell your eye doctor that your lenses are not comfortable or that your eyes feel dry. You may need to switch to a different type of contact lens made from a material that will help your eyes use their tears more effectively. There are also a variety of contact lens solutions that are specially formulated to help with dry eye symptoms caused by contact lens wear. Be sure to ask your doctor what solutions you should be using, because using the wrong drops can actually make the problem worse.
• Wear sunglasses – Glasses or sunglasses that fit close to the face and wrap around the sides can help slow down the evaporation of your tears. Wear goggle while swimming to protect your eyes from chemicals in the water.
• Take a break – Make sure you give your eyes time to rest when you are reading, working on the computer, or doing other activities that require concentrated vision. And be sure you are blinking often and that you close your eyes completely when you blink.
• Avoid dry conditions – If you live in a dry climate, consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Avoid windy conditions that can dry your eyes, and never position yourself in front of a fan.
• Don’t rub your eyes – You can irritate your eyes more by rubbing them. If your eyes feel dry, use drops or artificial tears to add moisture.
• Avoid smoke – Whether it’s yours or someone else’s, smoke can irritate your eyes and may your eyes feel more dry.
If you have ongoing symptoms of dry eyes, check with your doctor. Although most cases of dry eye are minor, severe dry eyes that are left untreated can cause inflammation, infection and even scarring on the surface of your eye.