Dry eyes or dry eye syndrome (DES) is an ongoing condition that treatments may be unable to cure. But the symptoms of dry eye—including dryness, scratchiness and burning—can usually be successfully managed.
Your optometrist may recommend artificial tears, which are lubricating eyedrops that may alleviate the dry, scratching feeling and foreign body sensation of dry eye. Prescription eye drops for dry eye go one step further: they help increase your tear production.
Contact Lenses and Dry Eyes
If you wear contact lenses, be aware that many artificial tears cannot be used during contact lens wear. You may need to remove your lenses before using the drops. Wait 15 minutes or longer (check the label) before reinserting them. For mild dry eye, contact lens rewetting drops may be sufficient to make your eyes feel better, but the effect is usually only temporary. Switching to another lens brand could also help.
Check the label, but better yet, check with eye doctor before buying any over-the-counter eye drops. Your eye doctor will know which formulas are effective and long-lasting and which are not, as well as which eye drops will work with your contact lenses.
Identify Dry Eye with InflammaDry®
InflammaDry® is the first and only, rapid, in-office test that detects MMP-9, an inflammatory marker that is consistently elevated in the tears of patients with dry eye disease.1 Using direct sampling microfiltration technology, InflammaDry® accurately identifies elevated levels of MMP-9 protein in tear fluid samples taken from the inside lining of the lower eyelid, the palpebral conjunctiva.
InflammaDry® is a disposable, low cost test, that requires no additional equipment to administer or interpret results. Using four simple steps, InflammaDry® test results are achieved in just 10 minutes, aiding in the diagnosis of dry eye before the patient leaves the office.
To reduce the effects of sun, wind and dust on dry eyes, wear sunglasses when outdoors. Wraparound styles offer the best protection. Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that's too dry because of air conditioning or heating.
For more significant cases of dry eye, Dr. Fedders may recommend punctal plugs. These tiny devices are inserted in ducts in your lids to slow the drainage of tears away from your eyes, thereby keeping your eyes more moist.
Tear osmolarity has been shown to have the best predictive value for diagnosing Dry Eye Disease of any single test. TearLab's sophisticated lab on a chip technology tests a tiny tear sample to measure Osmolarity, or the salt content in the tears.
The Doctor will test both eyes, and will take the highest number of the two tests, to generate Your Osmolarity Number. Your Osmolarity Number gives doctors a meaningful measure of the health and stability of the protective tear film that covers the surface of your eyes. The number generated correlates with the severity of the disease.
Doctors sometimes recommend special nutritional supplements containing certain essential fatty acids to decrease dry eye symptoms. Drinking more water may also relieve symptoms.
If medications are the cause of dry eyes, discontinuing the drug generally resolves the problem. But in this case, the benefits of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of dry eyes. Sometimes switching to a different type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while keeping the needed treatment. In any case, never switch or discontinue your medications without consulting with your doctor first.
Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops, plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.
If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until your dry eye condition is successfully treated. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.
Daily supplements of fish oil, when used alone or along with lubricating eye drops, appear to reduce dry eye symptoms, including burning, stinging, redness and blurred vision. For this reason, we recommend fish oil supplements for patients who suffer from dry eyes.
Research also suggests these same fatty acids may reduce the risk of macular degeneration.