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Doxycycline for Dry Eyes... Does It Work for Dry Eyes and Blepharitis?

March 14, 2018 9 min read


We have covered the condition known as dry eyes again and again, and with every new relevant piece of information, we have tried to give you the best possible information that we could get our hands-on. Dry eyes are a serious issue but it is also one that can easily be treated if you have the right information. Today we will be talking about Doxycycline and what effect it has on dry eyes. Before we get into its effects though, we’ll have to talk about the drug itself and what it is all about. 

What is Doxycycline?

Doxycycline is an antibiotic drug that was patented in 1957 but it wasn’t until 1967 that it was introduced into the commercial market. The drug is commonly used to treat infections that are caused by bacteria and parasites. It is available as a generic medicine and is generally extremely cheap, costing only about $0.01 per pill to manufacture (however, the price has recently increased). 

Doxycycline has a wide array of uses because of the properties that it carries. Doxycycline is labeled as a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which means that it can be used to treat a myriad of infections. We won’t bore you with how it manages to do that but it basically stops the progression of the bacteria and denies it the opportunity to grow further. This allows your body to fight the infection by itself without having to deal with any future infections that the bacteria might cause. This way it is able to treat you very subtly which is why it is currently one of the safest medications available right now. Doxycycline is also incredibly easy to take as it can be taken in the form of oral medication.

As you can tell, the medication has a lot of uses as it can be used to treat so many infections. This has made this medication extremely popular, especially in the US. It is estimated that this drug is the 110th most prescribed drug in the US, averaging a total of about 6 million prescriptions per year. It is such a vital medication that it is on the World Health Organization’s list of Essential Medications. This list is only comprised of life-saving medications that have proven their effectiveness as well as their safety. These medications must also have no better alternative.

How Doxycycline works

It’s actually pretty cool how Doxycycline works. Most modern medicines target the disease and seek to eradicate it from the body. That is a major reason why those medicines can cause so many side effects. Doxycycline doesn’t do that. It works really subtly by holding the infection causing bacteria in place. Not physically, of course, but rather medically. It halts the progression of the bacteria and doesn’t allow it to further promulgate. This gives your body the chance it needs to fight off the infection itself. 

Doxycycline blocks a very specific protein which is only found in infection-causing bacteria. Doxycycline basically makes the bacteria sterile which stops it from spreading further. 

What is Doxycycline Used For? 3 Doxycycline Uses

Doxycycline is an incredibly versatile medication that can be used to treat a variety of illnesses, most commonly infections. Here are the top three uses of this medication and how it can change the lives of people that use it. 

Doxycycline for Acne

Acne is not an infection per se. It cannot spread to other people and it doesn’t gradually make life worse for you. Acne is caused by the bacteriaPropionibacterium acnes which causes the symptoms of acne that you are already familiar with. Doxycycline can control the amount of these bacteria on your skin which allows your skin to clear up. Doxycycline also has anti-inflammatory properties which makes it even more suitable for treating acne. It can significantly help in reducing the red and swollen breakouts that can happen with acne. Doxycycline is not suited to deal with blackheads though, so for those, you’ll have to turn to other acne treatment options. 

Doxycycline for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea

Doxycycline is an antibiotic so it makes sense that this medication would be used to treat various sexually transmitted infections. Two of the most common STIs that the US faces are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Each of these is caused by bacteria that spread an infection. The infection is what leads to all the problems that people have to face because of these diseases. This is where Doxycycline comes in. It is often prescribed as the antibiotic to fight the infection because it doesn’t attack the infection. It just stops the progress of the bacteria thus allowing the body to take care of it by itself. 

Since Doxycycline doesn’t attack the bacteria directly, it doesn’t aggravate it which saves patients from a lot of unnecessary pain and problems that might be caused because of the bacteria’s reaction to being attacked. You have to understand that bacteria, just like any other living species in the world, has the basic instinct of self-preservation. Therefore if it is attacked it will fight back which can cause it to spread the infection at a much faster rate or cause problems that it wouldn’t normally cause. That is why this drug is so often prescribed by doctors; it’s sort of a natural way to deal with the infection by lending the body a hand instead of changing the internal composition of it. 

Doxycycline for Dry Eyes

There are multiple reasons why dry eye or Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) occurs. That is why there are many paths of treatment that you can follow in order to rid yourself of the disease. One of the most common reasons why dry eye happens is because of the inflammation of the meibomian glands, which results in them being clogged up and unable to produce sufficient oil to keep the eyes moist. Over time, this can cause the glands to lose their effectiveness at producing the required oils that are needed to keep the eyes moist. This inflammation is what results in dry eye and it is the thing that Doxycycline seeks to target. It is a medication that not only helps in fighting infections; it can also be used to treat inflammation, especially if it is located in such a sensitive area. 

Doxycycline for dry eye is not all that common right now as research is still being conducted in order to determine its efficacy at treating the condition. The results thus far have been promising, though, and it seems that people that have dry eye caused by inflammation may benefit greatly from this medication. More specifically, those with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), blepharitis, and rosacea are most commonly prescribed this medication. The inflammation caused by these disorders is what Doxycycline seeks to reduce and thus allow the glands to once again produce the substances needed in order to make sure that the eyes get the moisture that they so desperately need. 

Doxycycline Side Effects

It would be foolish to claim that this medication does not contain any side effects. No synthetic medication, no matter how well developed, is without side effects because it is a foreign substance introduced to the body. Medications like these tend to have some form of side effect which may necessarily not be harmful but is an effect that you would not expect from the medications. 

Doxycycline’s side effects are rarely dangerous and as of yet, there has been no case in which this medication has had fatal side effects. With that being said, this medication does have side effects.

The most common side effect that Doxycycline can have is that it can have an adverse effect on your gastrointestinal tract. This can lead to problems such as diarrhea, constipation, excessive production of flatulence, or stomach pains. None of these side effects are all that serious but some of them can lead to complications.

The oral intake of Doxycycline pills may cause choking if your throat is particularly dry or if you don’t take enough fluids while taking the pill. This again has a very slim chance of happening as you can usually tell if the pill is going to go down easy or not. It is also a side effect that is not limited to just Doxycycline, it can happen with any oral pill and is extremely easy to avoid. All you have to do is take a glass of water with the pill and you’re golden.

One of the most unique side effects that this medication can have is a sensitivity to the sun. Basically, it increases your chance of getting a sunburn and the effect is so common that it is reported in about 1/4th of the people that take the medication. This again is not a serious side effect as it can easily be managed but it is worth mentioning because even if you aren’t bothered by sunburns you should at least know why it happens. The good news about this is that, after you discontinue the treatment, your skin’s tolerance for the sun goes back to normal.

This medication does not react negatively with dairy products, antacids, calcium supplements, iron products, or magnesium products, although they can reduce the effectiveness that this medication has. So it’s best to avoid these products when taking this medication. The medication is also safe for use by patients with renal problems as it does not have any effects on the body’s renal system. 

Now we can move onto the effects that it can have on pregnant and breastfeeding women, and consequently the effects it can have on fetuses and nursing children. This medication can travel through breast milk which means that it can have an effect on nursing children. There are claims that this medication can lead to tooth discoloration and decrease the production of enamel in young children. 

You should also completely avoid the medication if you, or the child, is allergic to tetracycline antibiotics. And as usual, don’t try to self-diagnose or self-medicate. No matter how much information you have about the medication, it will still be nothing compared to the expert advice that medically trained professionals can offer. 

Can Doxycycline Treat Eye Infections?

The simple answer? Yes. Doxycycline can be used to fight off many forms of infection, including some eye infections. The medication can help to stop the bacteria to reproduce which can lead to the body fighting off the infection on its own. Usually, your eye doctor will use doxycycline for managing ocular rosacea, MGD, and styes.

Does Doxycycline help Blepharitis?

Doxycycline can be useful in treating blepharitis, especially when the blepharitis is the result of rosacea, MGD, or other skin disease. Doxycycline can help in reducing the inflammation that this disease can cause as that is one of the features of this medication. It can help open up the glands that have been blocked because of inflammation so yes, this medication does, in fact, help the patients of Blepharitis. 

What is better for MGD? Doxycycline or Lipiflow?


Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, also known as MGD, meibomitis, or Posterior Blepharitis, is where the glands of your eyelids, meibomian glands, are not functioning properly.  Therefore the oil, or meibum, that these glands produce is not secreted onto the surface of the eye.  The purpose of this meibum is to moisturize and lubricate the eye, while keeping the three layers of tears intact.   

There are many ways to treat meibomian gland dysfunction naturally and at home, which I discuss in great detail in another article [Click Here to Read].  In today's article I will be discussing two in-office or prescription-required procedures, Lipiflow and oral doxycycline.  

The Results

A recent study published January 17, 2018, has revealed that a single Lipiflow procedure was significantly more effective than a 3-month daily dose of oral doxycycline at improving dry eye symptoms secondary to meibomian gland dysfunction.  It did state that both choices improve meibomian gland function and signs of MGD.  Since Lipiflow has significantly lower side effects than doxycycline, it is the preferred treatment to improve symptoms of dry eye from MGD. 

How was it measured?

The researchers measured 28 patients split into two groups.  14 received a single Lipiflow procedure and 14 received daily oral doxycycline for 3 months.   Prior to any treatment and after 3-months of therapy, the participants were evaluated for the following: dry eye symptoms with a SPEED questionnaire (Standard Patient Evaluation for Eye Dryness), meibomian gland function by counting the number of glands secreting oil, tear break up time (TBUT), and corneal and conjunctival staining.  

My opinion on this study

Although a VERY low treatment population (only 28 participants), the results are very promising as I prefer to use more natural treatments for MGD.  Lipiflow is done without the use of any medication or antibiotics, and does not mess with the homeostasis of your body.  However, doxycycline for three months is taking an antibiotic for its side effect purposes.  I vowed to never prescribe an antibiotic unless absolutely necessary.  Therefore I would much rather discuss Lipiflow with a patient than give them a prescription for doxycycline.  

Both of these treatment options can be financially and time inhibited, which is why I always discuss natural, at-home treatments for MGD prior to discussing these.  If we still aren't getting results with natural, at-home therapies, that is when I pull these out of the "dry eye tool shed."  

Have you had lipiflow or taken doxycycline for your MGD or dry eyes?  

Let me know your successes or failures in the comments below.

One Love,

Dr. Travis Zigler, Eye Love

Dr. Travis Zigler

SeeEO of Eye Love


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