Dry eye syndrome is an ongoing condition that may not be cured (depends on the cause), but the accompanying dryness, scratching and burning can be managed. Your eyecare practitioner may prescribe artificial tears, which are lubricating eyedrops that may alleviate the dry, scratching feeling.
Restasis eyedrops (cyclosporine in a castor oil base) go one step further: they help your eyes to increase tear production. Restasis treatment is the first of its kind.
If the problem is environmental, you should always wear sunglasses when outdoors, to reduce exposure to sun, wind, and dust. Indoors, an air cleaner can filter out dust and other particles from the air, while a humidifier adds moisture to air that’s too dry because of air conditioning or heating.
Temporary or permanent silicone plugs in the lacrimal (tear) ducts keep tears in your eye from draining away as quickly. Called lacrimal plugs or punctal plugs, they can be inserted painlessly while you’re in the eye doctor’s office and are normally not felt once inserted.
A new type of punctal plug made of acrylic is a small rod that becomes a soft gel when exposed to your body heat after insertion. It is designed to accommodate to the size of any punctum canal. Advantages of this type of plug are that one size fits all so measurement is unnecessary, and nothing protrudes from the tear duct that could potentially cause irritation.
Sometimes, however, the tear ducts need to be closed surgically.
Doctors sometimes recommend special nutritional supplements for dry eyes. Studies have found that supplements containing certain essential fatty acids (linoleic and gamma-linolenic) can decrease dry eye symptoms.
If medications are the cause of dry eyes, discontinuing the drug generally resolves the problem. But in this case, the benefits of the drug must be weighed against the side effect of dry eyes. Sometimes switching to a different type of medication alleviates the dry eye symptoms while keeping the needed treatment. In any case, never switch or discontinue your medications without consulting with your doctor first!
Treating any underlying eyelid disease, such as blepharitis, helps as well. This may call for antibiotic or steroid drops plus frequent eyelid scrubs with an antibacterial shampoo.
Quite a few products are in testing for possible dry eye treatment. For example, trehalose (a carbohydrate) improved dry eye symptoms in small studies, but further testing is needed.
If contact lens wear is the cause of your dry eyes, your eyecare practitioner may want to switch you to a different lens or have you wear your lenses for fewer hours each day. In a few cases, it is recommended that contact lens wear be discontinued altogether until the dry eye problem is cleared up.
If you are considering LASIK, be aware that dry eyes may disqualify you for the surgery, at least until the problem is resolved. Dry eyes increase your risk for poor healing after LASIK, so most surgeons will want to treat the dry eyes first, to ensure a good LASIK outcome. This goes for other types of vision correction surgery, as well.