How to Treat Dry Eyes

Two Parts:Treating Dry EyesPreventing Dry Eyes

Are your eyes tired, worn out, or dry? Dry eyes can be cause by the natural aging process, medications, environmental factors, genetics, or they can be a symptom of a variety of medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.[1] Learn ways to treat dry eyes and how to prevent future instances of dry eye.

Part 1
Treating Dry Eyes

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    Understand why tears are important. Not only do tears keep the eyes moisturized, they also perform several important roles. Tears provide necessary electrolytes and have bacteria-fighting enzymes and proteins which keep your eyes healthy.[2] Tears quickly cover your entire eye to provide moisture and nutrients all over.
    • A problem with any part of a tear can cause problems for your entire eye. The cause can be virtually anything, but you may try a variety of treatments.
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    Use artificial tear drops. Artificial tear drops are designed to lubricate dry eyes and keep them moist on the outer surface. Artificial teardrops do not necessarily treat the underlying cause of your dry eyes. Instead, they provide relief from the symptoms.[3] Some contain preservatives that can irritate your eyes if you use them more than four times per day. If you need to use artificial tears more than four times per day, look for preservative-free artificial tears or speak with a doctor.[4]
    • Trial and error is usually the only way to find the best brand of artificial tears for your particular dry eyes. In some cases, a combination of a few brands may be even be necessary. They are available over the counter and are available in a wide assortment of brands.
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    Try medicated eye drops. Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose is the most commonly used medication for dry, irritated eyes followed by Carboxy Methylcellulose. These are also used as lubricants in tear drops and can be found in many over the counter drops.[5] You might also look for antibiotic eye ointment like tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, chloramphenicol. These are useful if you have eyelid swelling.
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    Get an eye exam. If you've tried eye drops and prescription drops, but still have severe dry eyes, see your eye doctor. Once the doctor has determined the cause of your dry eyes, you'll have other treatment options available to you.
    • If you're experiencing pain, like itching, burning, or blurred vision, see your eye doctor.[6]
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    Use an eye ointment. Your doctor may prescribe an eye ointment. Unlike artificial tears which treat symptoms of dry eyes, ointments are medicated to treat the cause of your dry eyes.
    • Eye ointments can also comfort because of their lubricating effect. They're useful during extended periods when artificial tears can't be applied. (While sleeping, for example.)
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    Have surgery to plug your tear ducts. You may need a more permanent or aggressive treatment. Your doctor may suggest inserting plugs into your tear ducts. These block tear drainage so your eyes remain lubricated.[7]
    • These plugs conserve your tears, as well as any artificial tears you use.[8]
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    Cauterize your tear ducts. If you've had your tear ducts plugged, but are still dealing with aggressive dry eyes, your doctor may suggest cauterizing the tear ducts. Once your doctor approves this surgery, an eye care professional will exam you and perform the surgery.
    • Understand that your tear ducts may actually heal over time. You'd need to have the surgery or another kind done to treat your eyes again. Cauterizing your tear ducts is a reversible surgery.[9]

Part 2
Preventing Dry Eyes

  1. 1
    Take frequent breaks during eye-intensive work, such as reading or working on a computer. Even when reading, it is important to take breaks. When we stare at a screen or a book, we don’t blink often enough.[10]
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    Keep moisture in your eyes from evaporating. Dry eyes cannot be completely cured, but there are some methods of prevention that can help along with your treatment. Just like any liquid, tears also evaporate when exposed to air. To keep your eyes moisturized:[11]
    • Don't expose your eyes directly to air (like car heaters, hair dryers, steam and air conditioners)
    • Keep the humidity level in your home between 30-50% humidity.
    • Use a humidifier during winter to add moisture to dry indoor air
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    Wear glasses. Wear sunglasses when going out in the sun. Wear goggles if you plan on swimming. You can also get special glasses from your eye doctor. These glasses create extra humidity by forming a moisture chamber around your eyes.
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    Don't irritate your eyes. Avoid smoking since it can quickly deplete tears and cause many other potential health problems. Also, avoid rubbing your eyes. This prevents bacteria spreading from fingers and nails onto your eyes.
  5. 5
    Talk to your doctor about medications that may cause dry eyes. Some medications, such as diuretics, antidepressants, beta blockers, Parkinson treatments, can cause dry eye. If you are on these medications and having problems with dry eye, it should be discussed with your primary physician. You may wish to change the medication to something with fewer side effects.
  6. 6
    Make sure your contacts fit. People who wear contact lenses and suffer from dry eyes should ensure that the fit, function and material of the contact lens is appropriate for their eye. You should see your ophthalmologist for help with fitting and choosing an appropriate lens.
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    Add moisture to your eyes. Use artificial tears as eye drops to keep your eyes lubricated and moisturized. You can also use ointments which last longer than eye drops. However, they can be messy because of their viscous nature and can lead to blurred vision. You might only want to use them while you sleep.
    • Use eye drops before, rather than after, performing visually demanding activities to prevent dry eyes. Try to blink often. This will help spread the tears or drops evenly.
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    Change your diet. Dry eyes can come from too much salt in the diet or lack of vitamins. You can test this for yourself, especially when getting up at night to use the bathroom. If your eyes are dry, drink around 12 ounces of water. See if your eyes get immediate relief. If they do, then reduce the salt in your diet and stay hydrated.
    • Try increasing the fatty acids in your diet. Specifically, add omega-3s to your diet. This can alleviate dry eyes by boosting your tear production.[12]
    • Ensure that you are eating adequate Vitamin A, which can be achieved by eating plant foods such as vegetables and fruits. Vitamin A deficiency is rare in the Western world, but can be aggravated by a diet deficient in whole fruits and vegetables.


  • If you have chronic dry eye, speak with your doctor. Chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension, need to see eye doctors on a regular basis because of disease complications. If you have a chronic disease, you should have a team of doctors who all are in contact with each other, to ensure all areas are properly covered.

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