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Robert Packe asked...

Tags: eyes , itching

I am suffering from "dry eye" & it is getting worse. What treatments are available?

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The Answer

Dear Robert Packe,

There are many possible treatment options available, however,  this may depend on a number of  causal factors :

  • Weather : hot or windy climate 
  • Contact lenses
  • Underlying medical conditions:  blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) 
  • Medication side effects

Treatments 

The exact treatment for dry eye syndrome depends on whether symptoms are caused by the decrease in production of tears, high rate of tear evaporation, or an underlying condition.

  • Lubricant treatments e.g. Hypromellose, Gel tears, Viscotears

Mild to moderate cases can be treated using lubricant eye treatments that consist of a range of drops, gels and ointments. 

They are often called 'artificial tears' as they replace the missing water in the tear film. However, they do not contain the antibodies, vitamins and nutrients found in normal tears that are essential for eye health.

Some are available without a prescription over the counter from a pharmacy, whereas others are only available on prescription.

  • Preservative- free drops:  In cases where your dry eyes are caused due to prolonged use of eye products with preservatives as this may damage delicate cells on the surface of the eye causing inflammation. As well as those who wear soft contact lenses.
  • Oily tear eye drops: replenish oily part of tear film, reducing tear evaporation. These may be purchased from over the counter at your local chemist without the need for a prescription. These are particularly useful in those who suffer with blepharitis and fast tear evaporation. 
  • Eye ointments: Help lubricate the eyes . they tend to be used overnight as they may cause blurred vision. 

As well as medical treatments, there are self-care measures that may reduce symptoms: 

  • Keep eyes and eyelids clean and protect from dusty, smoky, windy and dry environments 
  • Use your computer or laptop correctly to avoid eye strain 
  • Use humidifier to moisten surrounding air
  • Including  omega-3 fats in diet (if allergies do not apply) 

It would be worth contacting your GP  if you have any of the following symptoms, as they could be a sign of a more serious condition:

  • extreme sensitivity to light (photophobia) 
  • very red or painful eyes 
  • a deterioration in your vision 

It may advisable to see your GP if you experience persistent symptoms of dry eye syndrome to examine you to check if the problem is caused by an underlying condition or may refer you to an eye specialist called an optometrist or ophthalmologist for further tests.

Answered by our Health at Hand nurses.

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