How to Cure Dry Eyes - 7 Most Effective Dry Eye Treatments
Dry eye disease is a frustrating condition with many causes and contributors, and there are just as many treatment options. We’re going to cover the top seven most effective dry eye treatments that we see patients benefit from.
1. Artificial Tears
Lubricating eye drops are at the top of the list for an important reason. Artificial tears are a major component to all dry eye treatment management, and they have benefits at all stages of dry eye disease. According to DEWS II, artificial tears should be included in all treatment designs. They add lubrication to the eye and help prevent damage to the eye surface due to dryness.
Using a fluorescein stain and a microscope, your eye doctor can see dry patches on the front of the eye when your eyes are very dry. Superficial punctate keratitis is the medical term for this dryness, and this is damage to the cells of the cornea. Artificial tears can prevent inflammation from grabbing hold and making things worse - possibly preventing more punctate keratitis.
Some people may notice that artificial tears aren’t enough, and this is common, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t work for you. They do provide great symptom relief for many people and can help heal the eyes in those with a milder condition. Make sure to choose a non-preserved artificial tear, especially when using them more than four times per day.
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2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3s have a strong anti-inflammatory effect and many doctors recommend them because they help with so many parts of the body. You can find omega-3 in fish oil, algae based versions, and the food you eat (such as wild caught salmon). Studies on omega-3 supplements from fish oil do show improved signs and symptoms of dry eye after 60-90 days of use. Although there is argument over how much omega-3 is needed, 2000mg is a great recommendation and starting point. Before beginning an omega-3 supplement regimen, speak with your family physician about the dosage that’s right for you.
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3. Medicated Eye Drops
This category includes Xiidra, Restasis, and the newer Cequa. Restasis has been around for a long time, and Xiidra and Restasis are newer medications. All three are dosed one drop in each eye, twice per day.
Restasis helps block the inflammatory cycle and you may begin to produce more of your own healthy tears. This process takes time to work, so you’ll usually be told that you need to try the medication for at least three to six months. We’ve found this medication to be successful for our patients.
Xiidra works by a different mechanism, and this one will usually work a bit more quickly (great for those who don’t want to wait for Restasis to kick in). Clinical studies have shown that patients have improved signs and symptoms in as soon as six weeks with this medication.
4. In Office Treatments
In your doctor’s office, there are a few different treatment options you may be presented with. Most dry eye specialty clinics will have these devices. LipiFlow is a thermal pulsation device that works to supply heat and pressure to the eyelids. The point of this is to get the oil within the meibomian glands to release. Without proper secretion of the oil, the glands can die off. Although it sounds painful, most people find it soothing during the 12 minute procedure.
iLux is another device similar to LipiFlow. This device provides heat through light, and it also uses a pumping mechanism.
Amniotic membranes are the next in-office option. Both dehydrated and frozen tissue can be used, and they work well for people who have bad tissue damage to the cornea. Amniotic membranes add tons of antibodies to the eye and help the ocular surface to heal. This helps to hit the reset button for many people with severe, chronic dryness and other corneal issues.
Punctal Plugs are another in-office procedure, and they’re either made of silicone or collagen. Your doctor inserts them into the drainage canal of the eyes, and they do this to plug up the canals and leave the tears on the eyes. There is some hesitation with patients who have a lot of inflammation because you’ll end up plugging up all of the inflammation as well. You’ll need to get this cleaned up a bit first.
5. Warm Compresses
These are a daily, at-home treatment for blocked meibomian glands. Simply place a warm compress eye mask into the microwave for 20 seconds and use the mask for 10-20 minutes. This is usually sufficient to get the oils moving again. After using the compress, you can do a gentle eyelid massage to help move those oils along.
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6. Autologous Serum
You may not have heard about this treatment, but it makes use of your own blood. Your doctor writes a prescription, and you’ll take it to a place that will draw and centrifuge your blood. After that, they use portions of your own blood to make autologous serum tears. These tears contain helpful antibodies and other factors. This is advantageous because it helps your body’s own immune system fight off the dryness. This treatment is usually reserved for severe dry eyes in patients who have tried many other treatments.
These large, gas permeable lenses can be very beneficial for those with dry eye disease. Traditionally used for keratoconus and other corneal conditions, they’ve shown to be very helpful for dry eye as well. You fill the large bowl of the lens with preservative free saline and place it onto your eyes, bathing your eyes in tears all day long. For those who have tried many things without relief, scleral lenses can be very beneficial.