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People with chronic dry eyes can experience significant discomfort. The problem can prevent them from wearing contact lenses comfortably, even when frequently using eye drops. The eyes may feel gritty and tired. A doctor of ophthalmology may diagnose a common condition known as dry eye syndrome, which can develop for a variety of reasons. Patients sometimes can improve with lifestyle changes. If those modifications don't help, medical treatment by the ophthalmologist is likely to be successful.
About the Syndrome
This syndrome occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or effectively retain moisture. The disorder mainly affects people in late middle age or older. Nearly 5 million U.S. residents in this age group suffer from the condition, with about two-thirds of them women. Hormonal differences explain why women are more susceptible.
After an ophthalmologist has diagnosed the condition, the patient can consider some possibilities for treatment.
In some cases, a medication causes the issue. Switching to a different blood pressure medicine, hormonal contraceptive, or antidepressant might solve the problem.
Drops and Ointment
If regular eye drops have not been effective, the doctor might prescribe prescription-strength versions. Inconvenience will still be a consideration because patients typically must use the drops several times a day. Patients whose sleep is routinely disrupted because of itchy, sore eyes may benefit from applying a special ointment before going to bed. These products are available in retail stores.
Fish Oil Supplements
Taking fish oil supplements may reduce symptoms. The omega-3 fatty acid content appears to improve the natural oil film on the eye surface.
An ophthalmologist can prescribe certain antibiotics or topical corticosteroids, both of which reduce inflammation. This significantly decreases the bothersome symptoms of dry eye syndrome. However, some men and women feel uneasy about taking antibacterial drugs on a long-term basis. Doctors also restrict topical steroid use to limited time frames because side effects can occur.
An alternative is a tiny device called a punctal plug. The ophthalmologist places the plugs in the tear ducts at the inside corners of both eyelids. This stops moisture from draining. The procedure is medically referred to as lacrimal occlusion because tears are produced by lacrimal glands.
At first, temporary plugs made of collagen are inserted so patients can determine whether the treatment works for them. The collagen gradually dissolves, which generally takes a few months. If the patient has experienced relief with this method, silicone plugs can be inserted. These plugs last for years and also can be easily removed by the eye doctor.
Reach out to an ophthalmology center near you to learn more.Share