Though dry eyes cannot be cured, there are a number of steps that can be taken to treat them. You should discuss treatment options with an eye care specialist. Treatments for dry eyes may include:
- Artificial tear drops and ointments. The use of artificial teardrops is the primary treatment for dry eye. Artificial teardrops are available over the counter. No one drop works for everyone, so you might have to experiment to find the drop that works for you. If you have chronic dry eye, it is important to use the drops even when your eyes feel fine, to keep them lubricated. If your eyes dry out while you sleep, you can use a thicker lubricant, such as an ointment, at night.
- Temporary punctal occlusion. Sometimes it is necessary to close the ducts that drain tears out of the eye. This may be done temporarily with a plug that can be removed or will dissolve over a few days is inserted into the tear drain of the lower eyelid to determine whether permanent plugs can provide an adequate supply of tears.
- Permanent punctal occlusion. If temporary plugging of the tear drains works well, then longer-lasting plugs may be used. This will hold tears around the eyes to improve lubrication. The plugs can be removed. Rarely, the plugs may come out spontaneously or migrate down the tear drain. Many patients find that the plugs improve comfort and reduce the need for artificial tears.
- Restasis. The FDA approved the prescription eye drop Restasis for the treatment of chronic dry eye. It is currently the only prescription eye drop that helps your eyes increase their own tear production with continued use.
- Other medications. Other medications, including topical steroids, may also be beneficial in some cases.
- Surgery. If needed, the ducts that drain tears into the nose can be permanently closed to allow more tears to remain around the eye. This is done with local anesthetic on an outpatient basis. There are no limitations in activity after having this surgery.