Dry eye is a condition whereby something goes wrong with the production of tears in your eyes. Tears are made up of a watery and an oily component, and if there is an imbalance in either of those, it can lead to the tears evaporating too quickly, causing dry eye. It is also possible that insufficient tears are produced when we blink, which also leads to dry eye. Whatever the cause of your dry eye, finding treatment is vital. This is because, while generally not a dangerous condition nor one that leads to blindness, it can be very uncomfortable. There are various types of treatment and medication available for dry eye, most of which are over the counter remedies. Let’s take a look at the bets of the best in terms of the different options available to you.
Most people will start with eye drops, or artificial tears. One quick look in your grocery or drug store and you will notice that there are many different brands to choose from. There are quite significant differences between them, however, so it is important that you know what you should be looking for.
The role of these eye drops is to keep your eyes lubricated and to provide the outer surface with much-needed moisture. Dry eye can be caused by a range of factors (age, the environment, medication, wearing contact lenses, working behind a screen too much, and so on on), and these artificial tears aim to address them all. In many cases, you will have to try a number of brands before you find one that works best for you.
It is very important that you look for the ingredients in eye drops, however. The table below highlights some of the things to look for, and what it means.
|What’s on the Label?||What Does it Mean?|
|Contains electrolytes||This is an additive and it is designed to help the eye’s surface to heal.|
|Contains thickening agents||Helps to keep the drops on your eye for longer.|
|Contains preservatives||Help to stop the growth of bacteria on the eye. However, preservatives can cause irritation after long term use, if you have sensitivity or if your dry eye syndrome is particularly severe.|
|Does not contain preservatives||A more natural form of eye drops, and one that is considered safer for your eyes. Unfortunately, it is also less effective.|
Three brands that you may want to consider include:
- Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops, which contains 0.4% polyethylene glycol and 0.3% propylene glycol. These help to reduce the feelings of irritation and burning caused by low quality tears. It makes the tear film stronger, slowing down the time it takes for the film to breakup.
- Refresh Tears Lubricant Eye Drops, which contains 1.4% polyvinyl alcohol and 0.6% povidone. They work specifically on the feelings of irritation and burning that people who do not produce enough tears naturally. The product also contains tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride, which helps to reduce redness of the eye.
- Restasis, which is an over the counter medication but has prescription strength. It contains cyclosporine, however, which is an immunosuppressant. This medication has been shown to increase tear production ‘after long term use’, although it is not clear how long this actually is.
Ointments and Gels
People with moderate to severe dry eye can sometimes find relief by using gels. However, using gels properly tends to be quite difficult. In fact, there seems to be an issue with people either not knowing how to apply gels and ointments, or with physicians prescribing stronger gels without really looking into the causes of the dry eye symptoms themselves. Gels and ointments, whether over the counter or on prescription, should be used at night before bedtime, as they will blur vision. Additionally, it is vital that all information in terms of how to use it, how long to use it for and how often to use it, is followed properly.
Some of the brands you may want to consider include:
- GentTeal Gel for Severe Dry Eyes, which contains 0.3% of hydroxypropyl methycellulose. This specifically targets people whose tear film is of poor quality. The gel keeps moisture in place on the cornea.
- Skin Shop Dry Eye Gel, which contains cardiospermum. This is specifically designed to soothe soreness of the eyes, regardless of the type of inflammation or irritation.
Simply applying a hot compress to the eyes can be very beneficial. A lot of people use this before bed at night, but also on the morning, particularly if they wake up with crusty eyes. It is very important, however, that you do not make the compress too hot, as this could damage your skin, eyelashes and eyes.
Supplements and Vitamins
While there is no conclusive evidence yet that any one particular supplement can help relieve the symptoms of dry eyes, most scientists now agree that it is likely that our poor diets and lifestyle contribute to the development of this condition. A number of vitamins and supplements have been found particularly beneficial by quite a few people. They include:
- Vitamin E, which is very important if you take fish oil supplements, as fish oil can deplete the levels of vitamin E.
- Evening primrose oil, which has been used in ancient medicine. However, scientific information on its efficacy is conflicting at best.
- Fish, particularly oily, fatty fish like mackerel, sardines and tuna. This is filled with omega-3, something most people are lacking in their diet.
- Flax seed, which also increases levels of omega-3, although not as effectively as fish.
- Green tea, which is full of antioxidants. This means that dry eye caused by inflammation, free radical damage or any other problem may be addressed. There is some evidence to support this from a scientific study that showed the eyes absorb at least some of the catechins found in green tea. However, this research has not yet been repeated or peer reviewed.
- Lovaza is one of the strongest fish oil supplements on the market. This is so strong, however, that you should speak to a medical professional about taking it.
- Potassium, which is another nutrient that most people are very low on. It was recently cited as a nutrient that may also help with eye health. You can supplement with it, or obtain it from natural sources like dulse, kelp, almonds, wheat germ, bananas, pecans, dates, raisins, avocados and figs.
- Zinc, which helps our body to metabolize a number of enzymes, particularly those found in the eye’s vascular coating. Some natural sources, if you don’t want to take a supplement, include whole grains, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, liver, legumes, kelp, fish, and brewer’s yeast.
If you do suffer from dry eye, there are quite a few treatment options available to you. A lot of people also choose to combine the various treatment options, focusing on a healthier diet, using a hot compress on the morning, drops during the day and a gel at night. If, however, you have tried one or more treatment options and have noticed no relief in your dry eye syndrome, it is very important to seek medical attention. While it is most likely that there is nothing to worry about, it is never a good idea to gamble with your eyes. Having trouble with your vision can really have a negative effect of your quality of life.
Resources and References:
Cornea: Guide Your Patients Towards Better Gel and Ointment Use -Information on the use of eye gel and ointment. (Eye World)
NEI Sets Stage for New Clinical Trial to Tackle Dry Eye – Information on new clinical trial on dry eyes. (National Eye Institute)
Dry Eye News and Research – Developments regarding dry eyes. (News Medical)
Green Tea Catechins and Their Oxidative Protection in the Rat Eye – Information on the effects of green tea on the eyes. (Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry)