Dry eye is a common, and often chronic, problem affecting older adults. Having dry eye can really put a damper on your day. The itchy, gritty feelings are distracting, irritating, and sometimes painful. If you suffer from eye dryness, you’ve likely noticed that the irritation peaks at night.
But what exactly is dry eye syndrome? Dry eye syndrome is a condition where a person doesn’t have enough or the proper quality of tears to lubricate, nourish, and moisturize the surface of the eye. Tears are necessary for keeping the front surface of the eye in good health and also help you see clearly. With every blink of the eyelids, tears spread across the cornea, the outer surface of the eye.
Tears help reduce your risk of eye infection by washing away foreign debris in the eye and keeping the surface of the eyes clear and smooth. When you have excess tears in the eyes, they end up flowing into small drainage ducts in the inside corners of the eyelid. These ducts drain into the back of the nose. You may develop dry eye syndrome when your drainage and tear production are not in balance.
There are quite a few causes of dry eye syndrome:
Tears are produced by a number of glands in and around the eyelids. As we age, tear production tends to diminish especially with certain medical conditions or as a side effect of some specific medication. Environmental factors also play a role in tear production. Wind and dry climates can cause an increase in tear evaporation and therefore a decrease in tear volume. When tear production decreases, or when tears are evaporating too quickly from the eyes, dry eye syndrome can develop.
Tears are made up of oil, water, and mucus. Each component works to protect and nourish the cornea of the eye. The mucin layer spreads tears evenly over the surface of the eye while the smooth oil layer prevents evaporation of the water layer. Dry eye symptoms can develop if the tears evaporate too quickly or are not able to spread evenly over the cornea as a result of deficiencies with any of the three tear layers.
If you noticed your dry eye syndrome is much worse at night or when you wake in the morning, it might be due to nocturnal lagophthalmos, the inability to close one’s eyelids completely while sleeping. This causes the surface of the eye to be exposed overnight and dry out. Nocturnal lagophthalmos may be caused by facial palsy, incomplete healing from eyelid surgery, deformity of the lid, or just a regular anatomical variance.
People who experience dry eye syndrome often report feeling irritated, itchy, gritty, or burning eyes; a feeling of debris in their eyes; excess watering; red eyes or pain in the eyes. Other symptoms include:
Although counter-intuitive, watery eyes can be a symptom of dry eye syndrome. This is because the dryness on the cornea may over-stimulate the production of the watery component of your tears in an effort to protect the eye. This is known as “reflex tearing” and unfortunately does not stay on your eye long enough to correct dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome can also impact the outcomes of cataract and LASIK surgery, and these surgeries can often contribute to dry eyes.
Gel eye drops, also known as thicker artificial tears, are eye drops that are used to lubricate and help maintain moisture on the outer surface of the eye. These eye drops can help alleviate symptoms of dry eye that result from medications, a medical condition, aging, eye surgery, or environmental factors like windy or smoky conditions.
The best way to relieve dry eye symptoms is to utilize gels, artificial tears, and ointments. These solutions can replace tears for those with a deficiency. Over the counter gel eye drops are often an appropriate solution for dry eye syndrome, however if symptoms persist or worsen, it’s crucial to visit an eye doctor.
Some eye drops with low viscosity are watery and thin. These drops tend to provide quick relief, but the soothing is often short-lived causing you to use the drops very frequently to maintain dry eye relief.
Gel eye drops, on the other hand, are artificial tears that have a high viscosity, are thicker and more gel-like, and can provide lasting lubrication. These drops can cause significant blurring of your vision after applying them. This is why gel eye drops may be great for nighttime dry eye relief, but not ideal for use during the workday or while driving.
Gel eye drops are available for purchase without a prescription; however, you may have to try a few different brands before finding the one that works best for you.
There are two categories of gel eye drops:
Eye drops with preservatives come in multidose bottles that contain chemical preservatives. These preservatives prevent the growth of bacteria once the bottle has been opened and allow the drops to last much longer; however, they can irritate the eyes, especially if you have moderate to severe dry eyes. Eye drops with preservatives may also cause corneal toxicity.
Preservative-free eye drops contain fewer additives and are generally recommended if you wish to use the drops more than four times per day or if you experience moderate to severe dry eyes. These drops often come in single-dose vials and are usually more expensive. In general, eye doctors agree that it’s better to use preservative-free eye drops whenever possible.
Gel eye drops provide moisture for dry eyes by adding the same elements that your tears naturally have. Supplementing with artificial tears can help protect the surface of the eye.
In addition to lubricating eyes and providing relief from dry eye syndrome, gel eye drops can also promote healing of the eyes and decrease tear evaporation. Some eye drops also contain thickening agents to keep the moisture on the surface of the eye longer.
Refresh Celluvisc Gel provides extra-strength, long-lasting moisturizing relief to dry eyes. This gel is preservative-free and great for sensitive eyes at any time of day. Refresh Celluvisc Gel is preservative-free and comes in sterile, single-use vials.
Refresh Celluvisc Gel is made of a special, thicker formula that contains several of the same healthy components as natural tears. Refresh Celluvisc Gel is an effective, soothing gel drop that can provide relief from dry eye caused by computer use and reading, medications, age, medical conditions, heating and air conditioning, and wind and sun. Check price and purchase Refresh on Amazon.
Blink Gel drops are made with a thick lubricating formula that adapts to your individual dry eye needs. These drops are specially formulated for enhanced comfort and work to restore tear film every time you blink. Blink Gel is made with all the advantages of Blink Tears but with a more viscous formula for enhanced relief. Blink Gel works on moderate to severe dry eye symptoms and can be used during the day and at night.
Designed to restore your tears’ natural balance and maximize hydration, Blink Gel provides long-lasting dry eye symptom relief. Blink Gel contains OcuPure Preservative, which is a non-toxic preservative that keeps the drops sterile while in the bottle. Check price and purchase Blink Gel on Amazon.
GenTeal is optimized for quick, soothing relief from irritated, itchy, dry eyes. GenTeal drops contain Polyquad, which is a safe preservative that is gentle on the eyes. GenTeal gel drops shield eyes against further irritation and provide lasting relief. They also restore comfort after exposure to drying elements like wind and sun. GenTeal gel drops are ideal for use at night by applying right before bed. Check price and purchase GenTeal Gel on Amazon.
hydraSense Night Therapy for Dry Eyes provides a solution for irritated eyes. hydraSense Night Therapy provides effective and long-lasting relief from dry eyes. Designed for use at bedtime, hydraSense Night Therapy features a gel-drop solution that has a thicker consistency for lasting relief. However, the easy-to-use gel drops can also be used during the day. The drops contain sodium hyaluronate to lubricate, hydrate, and protect the eyes. Check price and purchase HydraSense on Amazon.
Systane gel eye drops have a thick formulation made to coat the eye with a powerful layer of dry eye symptom relief. Systane gel eye drops offer temporary relief of burning and irritation caused by dryness of the eye. These gel eye drops provide long-lasting nighttime protection overnight for even the most severe symptoms of dry eye. Don’t let dry eye keep you up at night any longer – Systane eye drops will work while you sleep to help you get a good night’s rest. Check price and purchase Systane on Amazon.
The Bausch & Lomb Liposic Ophthalmic Gel is a highly viscous, clear gel that quickly spreads over the conjunctiva and cornea, without leaving streaks on the eye. The gel adds moisture to the ocular surface to soothe dry eye symptoms including irritation, burning or tiredness of the eyes. This gel is best used for persistent dry eye syndrome at nighttime but can also be used for mild to severe dry eye. Liposic Ophthalmic Gel is formulated to replicate all three layers of the tear film and even has a pH of 7.4, which is similar to that of natural tears. These gel drops will provide long-lasting relief without blurring your vision. This gel is available in Canada, but not in the US. Check price and purchase Bausch & Lomb on Amazon.
HYLO Gel was developed specifically for patients with more severe and persistent dry eye. The gel drops offer more intensive, therapeutic lubrication of the ocular surface for strong and long-lasting dry eye relief. HYLO Gel does not easily rinse off due to its special formulation that results in a stable, long-lasting lubricating film on the eye. The gel drops also support the natural process of healing.
HYLO Gel eye drops are preservative-free and phosphate-free, making them easier to tolerate for those with sensitive eyes. HYLO Gel is also formulated with the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found in the eye and other parts of the body. You may also use HYLO Gel while wearing hard or soft contact lenses if your eye doctor says it’s safe. Check price and purchase HYLO on Amazon.
You may be desiring immediate relief, but it’s important to speak to an eye doctor who can help you find the root cause of your dry eye syndrome. Without this knowledge, use of gel drops or ointment may cause you to avoid discovery of the root cause of your dry eye.
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