Dry eye can be a temporary or chronic condition and can have many causes, which may include arid conditions (dry, windy weather), extensive computer use, aging, certain medications, injury and surgery. Dry eye is not only painful, it can also damage the eye's tissues and impair vision. Fortunately, many treatment options are available.
How is dry eye treated?
The first priority is to determine if a disease is the underlying cause of the dry eye. If it is, then the underlying disease needs to be treated. If dry eye results from taking a medication, your doctor may recommend switching to a medication that does not cause the dry eye side effect.
If contact lens wear is the problem, another type of lens or reducing the number of hours you wear your lenses may be recommended. In the case of severe dry eye, you may advised not to wear contact lenses at all.
Another option is to plug the drainage holes, small circular openings at the inner corners of the eyelids where tears drain from the eye into the nose. Lacrimal plugs, also called punctal plugs, can be inserted. These plugs are made of silicone or collagen, are reversible, and are a temporary measure. In severe cases, permanent plugs may be considered.
In some cases, a simple surgery, called punctal cautery, is recommended to permanently close the drainage holes. The procedure helps keep the limited volume of tears on the eye for a longer period of time.
Non-surgical treatments for dry eye include:
Use artificial tears, gels, gel inserts, and ointments - available over the counter - as a first line of therapy. They offer temporary relief and provide an important replacement of naturally produced tears in patients with aqueous tear deficiency.
Outdoors, wear glasses or sunglasses that fit close to the face (wrap around shades) or that have side shields may help slow tear evaporation from the eye surfaces. Indoors, use of an air cleaner to filter dust and other particles helps prevent dry eyes. A humidifier also may help by adding moisture to the air.
Avoid dry conditions and allow your eyes to rest when performing activities that require you to use your eyes for long periods of time. Instill lubricating eye drops while performing these tasks.
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