With summer around the corner, the use of air-conditioners and fans is on the rise, and this – coupled with hot, gusty winds outdoors – can really aggravate dry eyes. Artificial tears may help, but are they really just providing symptomatic relief?
This post looks at some of the successful treatments for getting to the underlying causes of dry eye as well as two end-of-the-line treatments for severe dry eye.
1. First, manage the inflammation
All dry eye conditions are associated with inflammation. This is the redness, swelling and pain caused by the body’s own response to trauma. Inflammation is aggravated by heat, yet one of the first things many dry eye practitioners do is advise warm compresses. In fact cold compresses may be a better idea at first, until the inflammation has settled down. Cold compresses can be done with a gel eye pack from the freezer. Mould it into the eye sockets and relax for 10-15 minutes. Cold packs may not be enough on their own, and most successful management of the inflammation associated with dry eyes, comes from a short course of steroid eye drops. These are powerful and usually only used for a few weeks. Your eyes can feel better within a day of starting these drops. They are available on prescription only, from your dry eye therapist. We recommend unpreserved eye drops for all our dry eye patients, as the preservatives in bottled formulas can cause further inflammation.
2. Get your tear glands working for you
Tears consist of watery and oily components. Watery tears come from your lacrimal gland, under your eye brow, and this gland can become inflamed. Oily tears come from a row of oil glands along each eyelid. They can become blocked if the oil changes consistency and becomes waxy. A particular course of antibiotic tablets can improve the consistency of the oily tears. Your dry eye practitioner can prescribe this medication where appropriate.
3. Tackle your dry eyes from the inside out
Did you know that the Western diet usually provides the wrong kind of fatty acids for good health? Essential fatty acids are literally the building blocks for every cell in our body. Omega 3s and 6s are present in our diets in a certain ratio, depending on what we eat. While healthy diets (such as traditional Mediterranean diets) contain these Omega 6 and 3 in a ratio of 4:1, the ratio in Western diets can be up to 20:1. This is difficult to address by merely adding a gram (1000mg) of fish oil per day to your diet in the form of a supplement. Real change happens in the food you eat, and not just the supplements you take. At The Eye Practice, we look at the underlying causes of dry eye. If diet is a cause, then it can also be a treatment.
4. Moisture-release eye wear
If you suffer from severe dry eye, it is not uncommon to find it impossible to watch TV, especially at the end of the day. We regularly hear of people who go to bed at 7.30pm because it is just too uncomfortable for them to read or watch TV; they literally cannot keep their eyes open. Special glasses that release moisture into sealed chambers can be of huge help in these circumstances. They literally seal the eye off from the environment and create a moisture chamber. This makes it possible to keep the eyes open for leisure activities in the evenings and can be a lifeline for some sufferers of dry eye.
5. Scleral contact lenses
Tried everything? Dry eyes still destroying your quality of life? Scleral contact lenses are the ultimate treatment for severe dry eye disease. These hard contact lenses vault the ultra-sensitive corneal completely, creating a fluid filled chamber over the front of your eye. Relief is instant. Expert fitting of these lenses is required, so make sure you see a contact lens practitioner who specialises in dry eye and scleral contact lens fitting.