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How Can I Manage Dry Eye?

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A woman inside the office sitting at a desk rubbing her eyes with her fingers due to eye problems.

Dry eyes can be more than a nuisance—they can significantly affect your quality of life. When you have dry eyes, can you manage them yourself, or do you need to visit your optometrist

You can manage dry eye in many ways, from at-home care to in-office treatments. Your optometrist can recommend the best treatments for your dry eye needs. 

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye occurs when your tears can’t effectively lubricate your eyes, leading to irritation and discomfort. 

Your tear film protects your eyes, but issues can develop and affect how well the tear film functions. Problems in the tear film can lead to several uncomfortable symptoms, including: 

  • A burning or stinging sensation in the eye
  • Red eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Watery eyes
  • Gritty eyes
  • Light sensitivity

What Causes Dry Eye?

Dry eye occurs due to issues with your tear film, 3 layers that work together to keep your eyes hydrated. Each layer of the tear film has a different role: 

  • Mucous: Helps tears spread across the eye evenly. 
  • Water: Protects the eye and keeps it hydrated. 
  • Oil: Prevents your tears from evaporating too quickly. 

When there are problems in one or more layers of the tear film, you may have trouble producing enough tears, or they may evaporate too quickly

Decreased Tear Production

Decreased tear production means your body doesn’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes hydrated. 

It’s common for tear production to slow down as you get older, but other factors can affect your tear film. Medication use and certain medical conditions can affect tear production. 

Increased Tear Evaporation

Increased tear evaporation occurs when your tears evaporate too quickly, typically due to issues with your meibomian glands—glands around the eye that produce oil. 

A common cause of increased evaporation is meibomian gland dysfunction, which happens when these glands become blocked. Blockages in the meibomian glands limit the amount of oil your tear film receives, leading to dry eyes. 

Besides meibomian gland dysfunction, increased tear evaporation can happen due to: 

  • Eye allergies
  • Skin conditions like rosacea
  • Medical conditions
  • Vitamin A deficiency  
A woman holding a small bottle of eye drops in her right hand and putting them on her right eye.

How Can You Manage Dry Eye? 

You may wonder if you can manage dry eyes on your own. Typically, it depends on the severity and cause of your symptoms. 

You can manage dry eyes in several ways, whether at home or at your optometrist’s office. 

At-Home Treatments

Depending on their cause, dry eyes can be treatable at home. Your eyes may need extra moisture, or you need to make some lifestyle changes. 

At-home treatments for dry eyes include: 

  • Over-the-counter eye drops: Over-the-counter eye drops help simulate real tears, providing temporary moisture for your eyes. 
  • Lifestyle changes: Lifestyle changes like drinking more water or using a humidifier can help reduce dry eye symptoms. 
  • Prescription eye drops: Your eye doctor can prescribe eye drops to address your dry eyes. They can help reduce inflammation or improve tear production. 

In-Office Treatments

Sometimes dry eyes aren’t manageable at home. Your eye doctor has many tools available to improve your dry eye symptoms. The best treatment for your needs depends on the cause of your irritation. 

Some in-office dry eye treatments include: 

  • Intense pulsed light therapy: Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy is a treatment designed to address compromised meibomian glands. Your eye doctor uses pulsing light from a handheld device to warm the glands and remove blockages, improving dry eye symptoms. 
  • Low-level light therapy: Low-level light therapy applies light to the eye area. It gently heats your eyelids to remove blockages in the meibomian glands and improve your tear film. 
  • LipiFlow: LipiFlow applies heat and pressure to the eye to improve dry eye symptoms. One piece of the LipiFlow machine warms the eye area to clear clogged meibomian glands, while the other applies gentle pressure to stimulate oil flow to the tear film. 
  • Blephex: Blephex can help treat conditions like meibomian gland dysfunction and blepharitis. Your eye doctor cleans the eyelids with a spinning sponge to clear blockages in the meibomian glands and restore function to the tear film. 
  • ZEST: ZEST (zocular eyelid system treatment) helps clean the eyelids to improve dry eyes. This treatment involves using a specialized sponge to gently clean the eyelids and remove debris to reduce dry eye symptoms. 

Don’t Live with Dry Eyes

Dry eyes aren’t something you need to deal with forever—you can treat them with help from your eye doctor. They can recommend the best treatment to improve your symptoms, helping you enjoy comfortable vision. Contact Eyes on 34th if you experience dry eye symptoms.

Written by Dr. Charanjit Sihota

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