Dry eye drops are one of the most frequently used over-the-counter remedies. But are they really helping your dry eyes? Could they in fact be making them worse? To understand this, let’s have a look at the underlying causes of dry eye:
What causes dry eye?
The watery tears are produced in our lacrimal gland, situated close to the eyebrow. If your eye feels dry or irritated (for example from cutting an onion etc.), the tears will flow.
The oily tears are produced in a different set of glands, this time in the eye lids. These tiny glands squeeze droplets of oil into the tear film each time you blink. These tears play a crucial role in preventing the watery tears from drying up. These oil producing glands can block up, resulting in a shortage of oil in the tear film. Studies show that up to 70% of dry eye is actually evaporative – in other words, it is not caused by a lack of watery tears but by a lack of oily tears.
How could artificial tears be making it worse?
Flushing out the good tears
As you add copious amount of tear supplements to your eyes, you may actually be flushing away the essential, oily layer of your tear film. The more you put in, the more diluted the oil becomes, aggravating the problem. It is important to remember that artificial tear supplements (dry eye drops) only provide temporary relief from the symptoms of dry eye and do not address the underlying cause. However, artificial tears can be very effective in milder cases of dry eye, or in temporary dry eye such as after eye surgery or during pregnancy.
Preservative-free or bust
Any dry eye drops that come in a bottle will contain a preservative. This preservative works by killing cells of any micro-organisms that are introduced to the bottle – through the air or through touching your hands or eyelashes. But the preservative also kills healthy cells and can be damaging to the delicate surface of your eye. We recommend preservative-free drops for all our patients. These are readily available in unit-dose so you can relax in the knowledge that you are not causing a toxic effect on your eyes.
What else can I do for my dry eyes?
Dry eye is present in Australia in epidemic proportions. Artificial tears can help with the symptoms but will do nothing to address the underlying causes of the condition.
A thorough dry eye assessment at The Eye Practice will establish what treatment will be most effective for you. We try to get to the root cause of your dry eye, rather than just treating the symptoms. Nutritional supplements can help address the problem from the inside, and often a course of prescribed medication can make a big difference to the quality of your tear film.
Getting the oil glands in the eyelids back on track and functioning properly is often key to successful long-term management of your dry eye. At-home treatments can only go so far to improve your tear film. Professional, in-house treatments such as LipiFlow can make the world of difference. It’s a bit like comparing the way you clean your teeth at home to the professional clean you get at the dentist once or twice a year. There’s just no comparison. In-house treatments will always deliver far better results than home remedies.