Can you cure dry eyes permanently? 9 treatment options
Dry eyes are a common issue. Causes include allergies, lengthy screen time, medications, and some medical conditions, like lupus. Your environment can also have an effect, such as dry, windy weather.
The National Eye Institute says dry eye affects millions of people in the United States every year. They can cause discomfort, itching, and even blurriness in vision.
Treatments for dry eyes range from over-the-counter (OTC) remedies to surgery. Some treatments are long term, and others offer immediate relief. If you need help deciding what to choose, consider asking a doctor or pharmacist.
Medical treatments for dry eye
If you have persistent dry eyes and OTC options like artificial tears don’t resolve your symptoms, you might consider a medical procedure. While they may not guarantee a permanent solution for dry eyes, they may offer long-term relief from your symptoms.
Tear duct plugs
Punctal plugs are small, temporary plugs that a healthcare professional inserts into the opening of the tear ducts — the puncta. They help reduce tear drainage, which increases tears on the surface of the eye and relieves dry eye symptoms.
These plugs commonly cause eye-watering (epiphora) and, less commonly, inflammation in the tear sac (dacryocystitis). A healthcare professional can help you decide whether this is the right option for you.
The LipiFlow system delivers heat and gentle pressure to the eyelid to unblock the oil glands known as meibomian glands. This can help improve the quality and quantity of the oil these glands produce, reducing dry eye symptoms.
An alternative to using the LipiFlow system is regularly using warm compresses on the eyelids, then massaging the eyelids with a finger or cotton bud to unblock the oil glands.
In rare cases, healthcare professionals recommend surgery for treating severe or persistent dry eye that does not respond to other treatments. Surgical procedures that can help treat dry eyes include:
- Tear duct obstruction: This procedure blocks the tear ducts to prevent tear drainage and increase tears on the eye surface.
- Meibomian gland probing: This unclogs blocked meibomian glands, allowing them to produce oil that stabilizes tears and prevents tears from evaporating.
These surgeries can provide lasting relief from dry eye symptoms, but it’s important to discuss specific procedures and their potential benefits with a doctor for proper evaluation and recommendations.
At-home dry eye treatments
Many people find they are able to relieve dry eye symptoms without medical procedures. You can use the following options regularly to find immediate and longer-term relief.
Artificial tears are lubricating eye drops that can help relieve dry eye symptoms. They work by mimicking your natural tears. You can use them as needed throughout the day to help keep your eyes lubricated.
You can get artificial tears from any pharmacist without a prescription. If OTC options don’t work, you might try prescription eye drops, such as lifitegrast (Xiidra).
There are different types — some thinner and some thicker — so consider talking with a pharmacist about the best option for you.
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A warm compress can help unblock the oil-producing glands in the eyelids, which can help reduce dry eye symptoms.
To use a compress, apply a warm, clean damp cloth to the closed eyelids for several minutes at a time. Gently massaging the eyelids can unblock the oil glands, helping your eye stay lubricated for longer.
Lid hygiene is a simple and effective way to help reduce dry eye symptoms. Regularly clean the eyelids and eyelashes with mild soap and warm water. An eyelid scrub or eyelid wipes can also help.
Vitamin A and E supplements
Vitamin A and vitamin E are essential for maintaining healthy eyes. A deficiency of either can cause dry eyes. Taking supplements or eating foods rich in these vitamins may help to improve the symptoms of dry eyes.
These fatty acids work by reducing inflammation and increasing tear production. They may also play a role in maintaining the health of the oil glands.
It’s important to note that while omega-3 supplements can be beneficial, it’s best to use them alongside other treatments recommended by a doctor.
According to 2021 research, castor oil can act as a lubricating eye drop to keep the eyes moisturized. Castor oil helps bring moisture back into your eyes by reducing inflammation, swelling, itching, and redness.
Castor oil is a component of some artificial tear eye drops that have been purified for the eye and are safe to use. Note that you should not place regular castor oil directly in the eye.
The best way to use castor oil for dry eyes is to apply it on a clean cotton pad and place it over your closed eyelids for 5 minutes at least once a day. You can purchase eye drops containing castor oil from your local pharmacy.
When to talk with a doctor
Consider talking with a healthcare professional if you experience any of the following:
- persistent dryness, itching, burning, or redness in the eyes
- blurred vision or difficulty with contact lenses
- consistent discomfort or pain in the eyes
- excessive tearing or discharge from the eyes
- light sensitivity or halos around lights
- sores on the cornea or eyelids
Additionally, talk with a healthcare professional if you’re taking medications that may cause dry eyes as a side effect or if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, such as:
Dry eyes are a common condition with many causes. While there is no cure, there are ways to manage and alleviate the symptoms.
Treatment options for dry eye include OTC artificial tears, supplements, compresses, and in rare cases, surgery. Consider speaking with a doctor if your dry eyes are severe or persistent. With the proper treatment, many people notice a significant improvement in their symptoms.
- 7 things to know about omega-3 fatty acids. (n.d). https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/things-to-know-about-omega-fatty-acids
- 12 devices for treating dry eyes. (2020). https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/how-to-treat-dry-eye-devices
- Alanazi SA, et al. (2019). Effects of short-term oral vitamin A supplementation on the ocular tear film in patients with dry eye. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6462169/
- Akkaya S. (2018). The effect of artificial tear preparations with three different ingredients on contrast sensitivity in patients with dry eye syndrome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6146240/
- Dry eye. (2022). https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/dry-eye
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- Punctal plugs. (2022). https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/punctal-plugs
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