7 Treatment Options for Chronic Dry Eye

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Erin Azuse, RN on September 19, 2022
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    Searching for dry eye relief?
    Every time you blink, your tears spread over the surface of your eye, soothing and protecting it. But if you suffer from chronic dry eye, this doesn’t occur as it should, either because you don’t have enough tears or you have poor-quality tears. Your eyes may burn or feel like you have something in them, and your vision can seem blurry.  Over time, chronic dry eye can lead to damage on the surface of your eye. Thankfully, there are a number of dry eye treatments, some you can try yourself and some doctor-ordered, that may bring you some relief.
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    1. Artificial Tears
    Many people try this as their first dry eye treatment. Artificial tears can be used as needed to make your eyes feel more comfortable. Different formulations can be purchased over the counter, including eye drops, gels and ointments. Eye drops for dry eyes are best used during the day, while gels and ointments can provide longer-lasting relief overnight. Consider purchasing preservative-free artificial tears if you are using the drops more than 4 to 6 times a day since you can experience irritation from preservatives with frequent use.
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    2. Lifestyle Changes
    You can alter some of your activities, as well as your environment, to help your dry eyes. Wear sunglasses when outside to protect your eyes from wind and irritants. Try to quit smoking and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. If you spend a lot of time on a computer or looking at your phone screen, give your eyes periodic breaks. Use a humidifier if you live in a dry climate. Incorporating essential fatty acids, like omega-3s, through your diet or supplements may also be beneficial.
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    3. Prescription Eye Drops
    Your doctor may prescribe special eye drops, such as lifitegrast (Xiidra) or cyclosporine (Restasis). These dry eye medications can help you produce more tears by decreasing inflammation in the tissues of your eye. Sometimes, steroid eye drops are also used to relieve inflammation in the eye, but they should only be used for a short period of time.
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    4. Eye Inserts
    Rather than apply artificial tears several times a day, a dry eye remedy called Lacrisert only needs to be used once a day. This small, rod-shaped insert is placed under your lower eyelid. It slowly dissolves throughout the day and helps thicken the film of your tears, providing long-lasting lubrication.
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    5. Tear Duct Closure
    Your tears leave your eyes through your tear ducts, so if your doctor thinks they are draining too quickly, blocking them off may help keep your eyes moist.  Your doctor can insert a punctal plug made of silicone or collagen into the tear ducts in the corner of your eyes to partially or completely obstruct them. These plugs can be removed at a later time. If a more permanent solution is needed, a procedure called thermal cautery uses heat to block off your tear ducts indefinitely.
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    6. Clearing Blocked Oil Glands
    If the oil glands in your eyes are blocked, they can’t secrete the proper amount of oil into your tears. This causes your tears to evaporate too fast. Applying warm compresses and massaging the eyelids may help open clogged oil glands. Another option is a treatment called the LipiFlow thermal pulsation system. This small device attaches to your eyelid for a short period of time, delivering controlled heat and pressure designed to clear the oil glands, improving your dry eye symptoms.
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    7. Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
    Previously used to treat skin disorders like rosacea and acne, intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) can also be used to treat clogged oil glands in your eyes. Your eyes will be protected while a device is used to deliver strong pulses of light around your eyelids. This helps soften any hardened oil in your glands. Your doctor will follow this with an eye massage to help open up the glands and allow them to deliver the normal amount of oil to your tears.
Dry Eye Treatment | Dry Eye Drops

About The Author

Erin Azuse, RN, has been a registered nurse for 18 years, working in neonatal intensive care and pediatrics. She specializes in creating educational materials for patients, consumers, and other healthcare providers, as well as content marketing for private physicians’ practices, medical device companies, and nursing schools.
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Last Review Date: 2022 Sep 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.