Dry Eye

Dry eyes is an extremely common problem affecting people of all ages and results in a feeling of irritation and scratchiness. The easiest treatment is the use of artificial tears. They are available without a prescription in a variety of preparations, mainly differing in the use or absence of preservatives.

If the drops burn or sting, oftentimes it is because they are not being used often enough or they are not the right drops. Some people need to use these drops as often as every 30 minutes to keep their eyes comfortable and prevent them from becoming hot or dry, THE COMMONEST CAUSE OF TEARING AND WATERING IS A DRY EYE! The excess tearing is really a response to the irritation caused by the dryness. Furthermore, these watery tears are not of good quality as they don’t relieve the symptoms. When we watch television or movies, when we drive the care or read we tend to stare and not blink. Also, air conditioning, hair dryers, drafty areas, a smoke filled room, or wind and sun will all cause the eyes to feel drier. These all increase the evaporation of tears and makes the dry eye worse. A full “proper” blinking keep the tears evenly distributed.
Some medications such as diuretics, antihistamines, some sleeping pills and tranquilizers, some antihypertensives and the birth control pill will make your eyes feel drier.

Increased comfort as well as more wearing time can be obtained using artificial tears frequently when not wearing the lenses. There are several over the counter “rewetting” drops for both hard and soft lens wears which will add moisture to the eyes while wearing the lenses .

When the eyes are particularly dry and drops are necessary on a very frequent basis, lacrimal implants may be very valuable. Lacrimal implants are small temporary plugs which can be inserted into the ducts draining the tears into the nose so the tears stay on the eye longer keeping them moist. After several days the plugs dissolve completely leaving the drainage ducts open as usual. If the eyes improved with these temporary plugs, then benefit from closing the drainage ducts with a laser or cautery could well be expected. The laser or cautery procedure takes only a few minutes. The treatment is on the edge of the lid and does not touch the eye. Since this treatment is superficial it could be reversed if necessary.

One of the newest treatments for severe dry eye is Restasis, chemically called cyclosporine. This is not an artificial tear product but a medicine that stimulates the tear gland to produce more tears. It can take 2 or even 3 months to have full effect so “instantaneous relief” is not available with this drops. During these first weeks, continuation of the artificial tear drops is of course encouraged.