October 7, 2020
Dry eyes are a condition that is characterized by symptoms such as dry, uncomfortable eyes that can become so serious that they affect the patient’s quality of life. Our eyes are usually coated in a thin layer of tear film – a substance that is a combination of oils, mucus, antibodies, proteins, and water. This tear film protects our eyes from harmful microorganisms and keeps them comfortable. When tear film production is compromised in any way, it can lead to dry eyes.
Other identifying characteristics of dry eyes include:
A burning sensation in your eyes
A gritty sensation, or a feeling as though there is a foreign substance like sand in your eyes
Sensitivity to light
In some instances, the eyes will produce excess fluid which is actually an emergency response to not having enough natural tear film. However, this fluid doesn’t have the right balance of normal tear film and so won’t help overcome the effects of dry eyes. The good news is that there are a number of different ways in which dry eyes can be treated.
Some of the treatments that you may be recommended to try could include any of the following:
The majority of patients diagnosed with dry eye also experience chronic inflammation in the tear glands that line the eyelid, as well as in the conjunctiva – the thin lining on the inside of the eyelids and the front part of the eye. This inflammation exacerbates the symptoms of dry eyes and so to alleviate them, it is necessary to reduce this swelling.
Fortunately, there are medications that can treat the underlying inflammation in the tear glands so that produce better quality tears. The effects aren’t instant, but patients must continue to administer the medication in order to start to see an improvement in their condition. These medications are usually provided in the form of eye drops and must be administered exactly as directed. Examples of popular anti-inflammatories of this kind include topical cyclosporine, corticosteroids, and Xiidra. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help reduce inflammation.
If your dry eyes are caused by a lack of tear film being produced, your eye doctor may recommend drugs called cholinergics. These go by the names pilocarpine and cevimeline and are available in the form of pills, topical gel, or eyedrops. They should be taken precisely as directed.
If medicated eyedrops aren’t providing enough relief from your dry eyes, your eye doctor may recommend that you consider using eye inserts. These look like tiny grains of rice and are placed between your lower eyelid and eyeball. The insert dissolves slowly, releasing a substance that lubricates the surface of the eye and keeps it hydrated and comfortable.
Punctal plugs are tiny, biocompatible devices that are placed into the tear ducts to drop the tear film from draining out of the eyes too quickly. They are usually inserted during a short outpatient procedure with minimal discomfort and patients can choose from a variety that dissolves over time, to permanent plugs that can only be removed by your eye doctor.
For more information about dry eyes and to find out about the treatment options that are available, please speak to our expert eye care team in Midtown East, New York, NY.