Millions of people are affected by dry eyes, and many don’t know what to do about it. But there are ways to find quick relief.
That Doesn’t Sound Comfortable
Last week a patient told me his eyes were “miserably dry.” He was so uncomfortable he could hardly work, and carried artificial tears wherever he went. He also used allergy drops and eye ointment, but nothing was working well.
I understood what he meant. I have experienced dry eyes ever since I was a teenager. That’s right – dry eyes aren’t just for the elderly. Anyone can have them. Just ask Jennifer Aniston.
Help for the Hurting
Fortunately, there are options for people with dry eyes. Now there are more treatments than ever. But how do you know what’s right for you?
Here are some of the quick and easy options my patient tried, and some of the treatments I discussed with him. I’ll cover long term treatments and prescription medications in a separate post.
- Artificial tears. I’m not a huge fan of moisturizing drops, mainly because most patients have already tried several brands with little success. But for mild dry eyes I do like Systane Ultra. I usually tell patients if they are using artificial tears more than two or three times per day, they are not working.
- Eye ointment. Many companies that make artificial tears also make ointments to be placed in the eyes at night. They aren’t for daytime use simply because they’re too thick, and cause blurry vision. These products aren’t for most people because it’s either the wrong choice or too uncomfortable to use. I do like nighttime gels for patients with certain corneal diseases, though.
- Moisture goggles. If you’re not a light sleeper, these may be for you. They trap moisture from your own tears while you sleep. These can be helpful for people who have severe dry eyes, poorly fitting eyelids, or certain corneal diseases. If you’re an open-eye sleeper, these may be for you. Another advantage is that most moisture goggles block light for deeper sleep.
- Nutritional supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help the tear gland production. They can be found in either fish oil or flaxseed oil supplements.
- Eyelid hygiene. Keeping the eyelids clean is one way to ensure your oil glands work properly. This is especially important if you wear makeup. Find out the best way here.
- Hot compresses. Some doctors recommend pressing a hot washcloth to the eyelids for a few minutes several times per day. The heat will stimulate the oil glands to produce more. My patients have trouble making this a habit, though. But if you’re motivated and consistent, this might work for you.
- Wear glasses. Your eyes could use a windshield. Whether you choose prescription eyewear or sunglasses, tell your eye care professional you want both clear vision and protection for your eyes.
- Give yourself a break! Many things make dry eyes worse, such as staring at a screen, wearing contact lenses, and certain work environments (think dusty or constantly flowing air). Taking a break from these circumstances can help your eyes replenish their own tears.
The list is just a summary. There are other treatments and medications that may work for you. And more importantly, there are a lot of other reasons your eyes may feel dry, including allergies, infections, and even eye diseases.
Only a complete eye exam with an eye doctor you trust will tell you why your eyes are uncomfortable and what to do about it. Stay tuned for my next post, where I will review advanced treatments your eye doctor may use.
Question: Can you remember when your eyes were the most uncomfortable? Please tell me about it in the comments below.
You may also like: