Millions of people suffer from dry eyes. And it’s an important thing to treat. Treating dry eyes not only improves your quality of life, but keeping your eyes hydrated help protect eyes from infection and injury to the surfaces of the eye. I hope this article will help people be well equipped to choose an over the counter product to treat dry eyes and to understand some of the prescription options available.
What Causes It?
We all know the saying, “prevention is the best form of treatment.” So if we could identify what’s causing your eyes to be dry and have that addressed, that would be ideal. Here are the most common causes of dry eyes:
- dry environments
- high altitude
- wearing contact lenses
- prolonged computer use
- hormonal diseases and postmenopausal estrogen
- eye surgeries (e.g. Lasik)
- prolonged use of artificial tears that contain preservatives
- Vitamin A deficiency
- medications- birth control, diuretics, beta blockers, anticholinergics, antihistamines, and antidepressants
Over the Counter (OTC)
Artificial tears are the go to OTC option for treating dry eyes. The following are important information to know before picking one up at the pharmacy:
- There’s a bunch of these and it can get confusing. There is no evidence that one works better than another, just find the one that works for you and make sure it does not have a redness reliever on the box, those will constrict and possibly limit hydration of your eyes and can further dry them out. Keep in mind, finding the right artificial tears will be trial and error. Make sure to use preservative free ones. They are more expensive but worth it if you’ll be using these often. The preservatives can damage the surface of the eye when used often and can in turn dry out your eyes.
- If you wear contacts look for a rewetting drop.
- For more moderate symptoms, you can use a gel or ointment in the evening or at bedtime. Only downside is these can make your vision blurry. It’s why it should be taken in the evening or at night because it can impair driving or things that require good vision. When using these you can continue to use artificial tears during the day. Also great if you usually wake up with dry eyes.
- If your artificial tears contains preservatives, try not to use them more than 4 times per day. Some studies show using more than this may actually worsen the symptoms of dry eyes.
If you’ve been using OTC products and still have not seen the relief you wanted, you may need to make an appointment with your primary care provider or an eye specialist for further evaluation and see if a prescription medication will be right for you, or if you would benefit from a surgery or other procedure to help. Prescriptions are usually reserved for more severe cases. The two common prescription options are Restasis and Xiidra
It’s expensive, it doesn’t work for everyone, and it can take about 3 months for Restasis to fully work. Restasis does not work for people who have dry eyes from contact use or surgeries, but rather from other dry eye diseases. The main side effect associated with Restasis is that i can burn your eyes. If you’re using it with other eye drops, make sure to separate use from other drops of about 15 minutes.
Xiddra seems to work faster, it works within 6–12 weeks vs 12–24 weeks as seen with Restasis. Because your eyes have a drainage passageway to your nose, which is connected to the throat, this medicine can get to the throat and cause a bad taste in the month. To minimize this side effect, immediately after inserting the drops squeeze the top of your nose near the eyes. This will help prevent the medication from leaking into your nose.
Less common and not preferred options
There are other options to treat dry eyes but these are less commonly used due to side effects or lack of evidence that it works better than the above options. The following are less common options:
- Corticosteroids and Antibiotics are sometimes used to reduce inflammation
- Lacrisert, its a medication that looks like a grain of rice and it is inserted into the eye. It releases a lubricant into the eye which is thought to help with symptoms.
- Tear stimulating drugs
Really hope this information was helpful! If you could share this I’d greatly appreciate it, and so would your friend or family member who also suffers from dry eyes. If you have any other questions about treaing dry eyes please feel free to send me an email.
Thanks for reading,
Richard Waithe, PharmD | Richard@MedVize.com
It would mean a lot to me if you could share this with your friends and family. ❤
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