Do You Suffer from Dry Eye?

Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eye doesn’t make enough tears to keep your eye moist and comfortable. Dry eye syndrome is more than just a nuisance. Your tears are important in keeping your eyes healthy.

If you have dry eyes, many different treatments are available to maintain moist and healthy eyes, including:

Environmental changes:

Mild dry eyes can often be improved by making simple changes in your surroundings. One common cause of dry eye is air blowing in your face, which can evaporate your tears faster than your eye can make them. Don’t sit directly in front of a heating or air-conditioning vent at home or at work, and in the car, make sure these vents are not aimed directly into your face. Avoid using hair dryers, or at least shield your eyes when using one. If you smoke, you should seriously consider quitting, because smoking also aggravates dry eyes.

Dietary changes:

You are what you eat, and studies have shown that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can decrease dry symptoms.   Fish such as tuna, salmon, and halibut, and various seed- and nut-derived oils such as flaxseed, walnut, soybean, and canola, are all good dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids.  Fish oil capsules are also commercially available at drug stores and health food stores.

Tear replacement therapy:

If the environmental changes alone don’t restore your eyes’ moisture level, many over-the-counter eye drops—called artificial tears—are available. These drops are highly effective in soothing dry eyes for most people, but they must be used regularly—often 4 times a day. Some people develop allergies to or irritation from the preservatives if they use the drops more than 4 times a day. The single-dose vials do not contain preservatives, and are recommended for anyone who needs to use the drops more than 4 times a day. These products can be purchased without a prescription in any supermarket or drug store.

Punctal plugs:

You have a tear duct in the inner corner of each eyelid. As new tears reach your eye, old tears either evaporate or drain away into the nose through the tear ducts (which is why you get the sniffles when you cry). The opening to the tear duct is called the punctum, and if you must use artificial tears more than 4-6 times per day to make your eyes feel better, your doctor can put a small plug in the tear duct punctum to prevent your tears from draining away. By making your tears last longer, this in-office procedure may help you maintain eye moisture with fewer tears overall.

Prescription medications:

A new prescription medication called cyclosporine is now available. Marketed under the brand name Restasis®, cyclosporin helps your tear glands produce more of your own natural tears. Your natural tears help protect the surface of your eyes, improve the comfort of your eyes, and improve the quality of your vision.