If you have experienced dry eyes, you’ll know how unpleasant the sensation can be. Dry eye syndrome, sometimes known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, happens when the eye does not produce enough tears, or when the tears dry up too quickly. Fortunately, there are treatments available to reduce the symptoms and address the underlying cause. Find out how to treat dry eyes below.
It is a common condition that can be triggered by a variety of causes. These may include:
- a very hot or windy environment
- extended screen time (for example, spending all day at the computer)
- wearing contact lenses
- laser eye surgery (this is a common side-effect in the first days after surgery, but should only last a few weeks at most)
- a diet that is deficient in Vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids
- some medications, like antihistamines and beta blockers
- an underlying eye condition, or another physical condition like lupus, HIV or rheumatoid arthritis
- Some women also experience dry eyes during pregnancy or as a result of hormone changes during the menopause
Whatever the cause of dry eyes, it’s possible to treat the symptoms quickly and easily. However, it is important to seek advice from your optician or ophthalmic specialist first, to ensure that any underlying conditions are detected and treated, too.
Dry eye treatments
Your treatment will depend in part on what is making your eyes dry. Are tears evaporating too quickly or not being produced, or is there an underlying condition that needs to be treated? These are the questions your optician will consider when deciding how to treat dry eyes.
- Different lubricants, often known as ‘artificial tears’, can be used to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes. They may come in the form of eye drops, gels or ointments. When dry eyes are a temporary side-effect of laser eye surgery, or another factor that isn’t a permanent problem, using these treatments to keep your eye lubricated will reduce irritation and help you to feel more comfortable.
- Anti-inflammatory treatments. In more severe cases of dry eye syndrome, antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation in the eyes.
- Very rarely, surgical procedures are used to treat severe cases of dry eye syndrome. A treatment called punctal occlusion involves sealing the tear ducts to ensure that tears remain in your eyes. Salivary gland autotransplantation involves implanting glands from the lower lip into the skin around the eye, where the saliva they produce acts as a substitute for tears.
- Other treatments. If your dry eyes are caused by another condition, treatment will primarily focus on that condition. For example, if the cause is hormonal in nature you may be prescribed replacement therapy or other supplements. If the underlying cause is not addressed, then all that can be done is to alleviate the symptoms.
How do I avoid it?
- If you wear contacts, give yourself a break every now and then, wearing spectacles for a day or two each week to let your eyes rest. You could also consider switching to a different brand to see if yoursymptoms improve.
- Ensure that you eat enough Vitamin A and Omega 3. Take supplements and include foods such as carrots, broccoli, liver and fish in your regular diet.
- Keep your eyes clean. Having dry eyes for a long period of time can put you at risk of infection, so a regular routine paying attention to eye hygiene will help.
- If possible, reduce screen time and ensure that you take regular breaks from the screen.