ADHD: A Parenting Guide

Faqs About Dry Eye Treatment

Do you have dry, itchy eyes? More than 3.2 million women and 1.68 million men ages 50-plus in the United States have dry eye, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). If you're one of the millions of American adults with this uncomfortable condition, take a look at the answers to the top dry eye treatment questions.

Do You Need to Treat Dry Eye?

Dry eye happens when you don't make enough tears to provide adequate lubrication. This results in a range of symptoms, such as burning, itching, mucus accumulation, sensitivity to light, redness, watering, blurred vision, and difficulty seeing at night/nighttime driving. If you have any (or all) of these symptoms, dry eye care treatment can help to alleviate discomfort. While you don't have to treat dry eye, it's not likely the symptoms will completely or permanently resolve on their own.

Should You Use Over-the-Counter or Prescription Treatments?

There are several options used to treat dry eye symptoms—including over-the-counter (OTC) drops patients can buy at a pharmacy or other similar retailer and prescription medications. OTC drops, such as artificial tears, moisten the eye. This reduces or eliminates symptoms caused by a lack of lubrication.

Before you choose or use an OTC artificial tear product, talk to an ophthalmologist. The eye care provider can help you to evaluate the OTC options and select the best one for your needs. If the eye doctor feels OTC drops won't sufficiently treat your dryness, they may prescribe medication. Prescription dry eye drops and oral medications help to reduce eyelid inflammation. Eyelid swelling can interfere with the oil production around the eye area. Without oil, tears evaporate quickly and may not adequately lubricate the eyes.

Your eye doctor will examine your eyes, evaluate the issue, and diagnose the probable cause before they recommend an OTC or prescription treatment. Many patients start with OTC treatments. If you've tried these types of products and still have dry eye symptoms, the ophthalmologist may feel a prescription medication is necessary.

Are There Other Types of Treatments for Dry Eyes?

Over-the-counter drops and prescription medications are popular treatments for dry eyes. But these aren't your only options. Eye inserts are small tubes of medication that fit onto your eyes. The inserts gradually release medication, moistening your eyes without the need to constantly apply artificial tears.

If OTC drops, prescription treatments, and inserts still leave your eyes dry, the doctor may suggest a procedure or specialized contacts. Common procedures used to treat dry eye include tear duct plug insertion (the eye doctor closes the duct with removable plugs to increase the number of times tears stay in your eyes) or clearing blocked eye oil glands. For more information about dry eye treatment, contact an eye care center.