In our clinic, we see patients daily who complain of itchy, red, watery eyes. After all, Idaho's climate is dry, dusty, and windy.
Dry eyes can cause irritation, foreign body sensation, redness, contact lens intolerance, and blurred vision, and more. Certain medical conditions or the conditions in our environment can also cause dry eyes, including the following:
- autoimmune diseases
- wearing contact lenses
- increased age
- air pollution
Our heating and cooling systems at home and work can also contribute. In addition, being a woman increases your risks, along with long reading or screen time where we tend to blink less often.
The symptoms of dry eyes are often similar to, and therefore confused with, those of allergies. Both cause the eyes to feel itchy, gritty, and sandy. Eyes may also burn or sting, be sensitive to light, or even experience fluctuations and blurred vision. The two complaints I hear the most are excessive watering or tearing and uncomfortable contact lenses.
If you are suffering from dry eyes, here are some of your treatment options and steps that you can take at home to help reduce your symptoms.
6 Treatments for Dry Eyes
Here is a list of some Dry Eye treatments that we have found to be the most effective:
TempSure is a non-surgical treatment that uses radiofrequency waves to encourage the tissue of your eyelids to increase collagen and elastin production, which improves the blinking process. Also, the warming that your meibomian glands experience during the treatment can improve the expression of oil into this respective eye layer, reducing the evaporation of your natural tears and keeping your eyes more hydrated and moisturized.
TempSure’s results can show up after only one treatment, and continue to improve in the weeks that follow. Your ocular aesthetician or ophthalmologist may recommend returning for follow-up appointments because the new collagen fibers and your meibomian glands are still subject to the effects of aging.
Hypochlorous Acid Spray
This product can be found at local drug stores and at online retailers. Hypochlorous spray is a disinfectant that is an all-natural antimicrobial agent, which helps reduce inflammations and fight infection.
In the treatment of dry eyes, the hypohalous acid spray is best used twice a day and helps reduce bacterial loads on the lids. It is best used in conjunction with warm compresses for maximum effect in treating eyelid disease.
Sealed Masks for CPAP
Dryness due to impartial lid closure like lagophthalmos, floppy eye syndrome, and dryness from a CPAP mask causes extreme dryness and discomfort upon awakening in the morning. This is because dry air hits the cornea and causes corneal damage. A sealed mask creates a sealed barrier around the eye creating a moisture-rich chamber that keeps the ocular surface hydrated during the night. Wearing a sealed mask at night will help reduce discomfort and dryness upon awakening in the morning.
For the treatment of moderate to severe dry eyes, autologous serum can be a viable option. Autologous serum is a compounded eye drop that has similar characteristics to human tears, and it also helps prevent the release of inflammatory cells. However, the autologous serum is not easy to obtain.
First, a blood draw is required to collect the plasma, which is a component of the blood that is rich in growth factors. After the plasma is collected it must be transferred to a compounding pharmacy where it is diluted to the desired concentration. The drops need to be properly stored and can be kept refrigerated for 1 week or frozen for up to 6 months. For severe dry eyes, autologous serum can be beneficial if other dry eye therapies have provided insufficient relief.
For very severe dry eyes and ocular surface disease, a sutureless amniotic membrane can be applied in the office. The amniotic membrane is the tissue from the innermost layer of the placenta which can provide vitamins and minerals to the cornea. The amniotic membrane acts as a barrier to protect the cornea and can promote healing. In addition, the amniotic membrane has properties that promote new cell growth and can help reduce inflammation.
Amniotic members look like a contact lens that will dissolve in the eye. If you are suffering from chronic dry eyes, amniotic members can offer relief and release properties that can help the front surface heal.
Dryness can cause discomfort and irritation throughout the day and contact lens intolerance. Scleral lenses are hard-shell lenses that have a fluid reservoir between the cornea and lens. This reservoir acts as a constant source of hydration and a barrier that shields and protects the eyes from further irritation and damage. Scleral lenses can help by reducing irritation and discomfort, helping the eyes regain a healthier appearance.
What Can You Do at Home to Help Relieve Dry Eyes?
While some of the causes of dry eye symptoms may require the care of a doctor or optometrist, there are many things that you can do at home to help relieve your symptoms.
Use Artificial Tears
These are typically over-the-counter eye drops that can be found at most pharmacies and grocery stores. A true lubrication drop adds moisture back to the eyes when the eyes are either not producing enough tears or the natural tears are evaporating too quickly. I recommend using these drops three times per day in both eyes as a baseline and increasing the drops up to six times a day as needed for relief. Artificial tears should be used, not drops that are designed to “get the red out” or to treat allergies, both of which are counterproductive.
Take Omega 3s
The most common types of omega 3s are fish oil, flaxseed oil, and nuts and seeds. One cause of dry eyes is a decreased production of tears from the lacrimal gland due to inflammation in the gland. Omega 3s act as an anti-inflammatory to both the lacrimal gland and ocular surface. Consistency and quality are important for this treatment to be effective. Take omega 3s daily in a therapeutic dose. I often recommend 2000mg per day for my patients with dry eye syndrome, but please check with your primary care physician prior to starting this high of a dosage. And remember, if your omega 3s are causing you to burp up fish taste, they are no good. Replace them with high-quality like Nordic Naturals.
Try Lid Scrubs and Warm Compresses
One cause of dry eyes is eyelid disease. All along the lid margins, there are tiny holes, pores, that secrete oils. These oils make up part of our natural tear film and their job is to prevent our tears from evaporating too quickly. Like the rest of the pores on our face, they can become clogged and make our eyes dry. Bacteria is often a cause of this, so using lid scrubs twice a day can help control the bacterial levels when followed by warm compresses to soften the oils so they can flow out more easily. A commonly used brand of lid scrubs is Ocusoft.
Even mild dehydration can cause symptoms of dry eyes. Increasing water to 8-10 glasses a day is good for the whole body but with consistency, you will notice the dry eye symptoms dissipate too. If you don’t love water, even other high water content foods and drinks without alcohol or caffeine can improve your symptoms.
Take Vision Breaks
When we are performing a task with high focus, such as reading or using a computer, we tend to blink less often. Following the 20/20/20 rule is a good trick to use to prevent dry eyes while doing these tasks. Basically, for every 20 minutes of sustained near work, you will need to take a 20-second break to look 20 feet away (or close your eyes). Following this basic rule of thumb will improve not only your dry eye symptoms but will also allow you to increase efficiency and productivity.
There are lots of ways to treat dry eyes, but the only way to know for sure that the symptoms you are experiencing are dry eyes is to see your eye care professional. After your optometrist completes a Dry Eye Evaluation to determine the cause of your symptoms, he or she will likely recommend some of the above treatments, but there are many more treatments not listed here that may be more appropriate for you.
Consistency is key, these are all good treatments but will not work effectively if you aren’t consistent. Dry Eye Syndrome is a chronic condition, it won’t go away, all we can do is manage the condition. We have a huge arsenal of dry eye treatments so please don’t suffer!
Schedule a consultation with us today, and start feeling better.