Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when the tear glands don’t produce adequate quantity of tears to keep the eyes lubricated. It is characterized by symptoms such as burning, stinging or itchy sensation in the eyes, redness, sensitivity to light, accumulation of excessive mucus in or around the eyes, blurred eyesight, watery and tired eyes. Although this is not a serious medical issue, it can cause a lot of discomfort to an individual. The good part is that with the right treatments and prevention methods it can be managed successfully.
Medical treatments for chronic dry eyes
Usually, for patients suffering from mild symptoms or occasional bouts of dry eyes, over-the-counter eye drops are sufficient to alleviate the condition. Conversely, if the symptoms are recurrent or severe, then medical intervention becomes necessary. Every person’s treatment will differ based on the cause of dry eyes. The following are some of the common treatments that are used to control the symptoms of dry eyes-
The severity of every symptom will vary across patients. Therefore, to deal with a diverse range of symptoms, the doctors will use prescription medications like-
- Anti-inflammatory medications to minimize eyelid or corneal inflammation. These might include antibiotics, immune-suppressing medicines or corticosteroids.
- Eye inserts (hydroxypropyl cellulose) to lubricate the eyes.
- Cholinergics (tear-stimulating medicines) which are available in the form of gel, eye drops or pills.
- Autologous blood serum drops which are made from the patient’s blood. The doctor retains a sample of the blood which is processed to separate the red blood cells and then blended with a salt solution.
If the prescription medications aren’t effective, then the doctor might recommend some of the following procedures to correct the condition.
- Closing the tear ducts
To prevent the tears from leaving the eye too quickly, the doctor might suggest closing the tear ducts, partially or entirely. The tear ducts can be plugged with small, removable silicone plugs. A permanent solution like thermal cautery can also be implemented which uses heat to seal the tear ducts.
- Specialized contact lenses
The doctor can prescribe special types of contact lenses that are tailored for patients with dry eyes. These are known as scleral or bandage lenses. Such lenses protect the surface of eyes and maintain the right moisture levels.
- Unclogging oil glands
The blocked oil glands can be treated with a procedure known as LipiFlow thermal pulsation which uses an eyecup-shaped device to gently massage the lower eyelid. This warm massage takes less than 15 minutes to clear the blocked eye glands.
- Light therapy and eyelid massage
Intense-pulsed light therapy followed by an eyelid massage can effectively relieve severe dry eye symptoms. It generates heat that allows the secretions in the dermal layer to loosen up and opens up the glands.
- Use a humidifier in your home.
- Avoid direct contact from the air that comes from fans, hair dryers, air conditioners or car heaters.
- Wear sunglasses when you’re outside.
- Give your eyes a break by relaxing your focus or closing them for a few minutes.
- Position your computer screen at a lower level.
- Quit smoking.
- Regularly use OTC eye drops to keep the eyes adequately lubricated.