Self-Care at Home
To help alleviate your symptoms of dry eye syndrome (DES), try these suggestions at home.
- A humidifier puts more moisture in the air. With more moisture in the air, tears evaporate more slowly, keeping your eyes more comfortable. Also, both furnaces and air conditioners decrease humidity in the air.
- Excessive air movement dries out your eyes. Avoid this by decreasing the speed of ceiling fans and/or oscillating fans.
- Warm compresses and eyelid scrubs with baby shampoo help the oil layer of your tears by providing a thicker, more stable layer of lubricant. This is especially helpful if you have inflammation of the eyelids or problems with the glands in your eyelid that make the lubricant. The heat warms up the oil in the glands, making it flow more easily; the massaging action helps draw the oil out of the glands. The cleansing action decreases the number of bacteria that break down the oil.
- Artificial tears and lubricating eye drops and gels (available over the counter) help provide more moisture and lubrication for the surface of your eye. They are typically used about four times a day but can be used as often as needed. Preservative-free solutions are recommended if you wish to use tears more than four times a day.
- Lubricating eye ointments are much thicker than eye drops and gels. Because ointments are so thick, they last much longer than eye drops and gels. However, because of their thickness, ointments may blur your vision if used during the day. Therefore, they are typically used to lubricate the eyes overnight while you sleep.
- If you notice your eyes are dry mainly while reading or watching TV, taking frequent breaks to allow the eyes to rest and become moist may be helpful.
Although no cure exists for DES, many treatments are available. For most mild cases you may only require a humidifier or occasional eye drops. With greater dry eye symptoms and severity your eye doctor may recommend supplemental nutrients, temporary or ongoing anti-inflammatory drops, or occlusion of your tear drainage canals to help decrease DES.
Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops, usually labeled as artificial tears (not to be confused with over-the-counter allergy or red eye drops), may help relieve your dry eyes. Some examples of these products include 20/20 Tears, Celluvisc, Comfort Tears, Dry Eyes, Murine, Refresh, and Tears Naturale. Make sure you choose artificial tears and not other products made by the same manufacturers. Your eye doctor may also prescribe medications to help increase your tear production.