Dry Eye Diagnosis and Treatment
Your ophthalmologist will begin with an eye exam. He or she will look at your eyelids and the surface of the eye. They will also check how you blink.
There are many different tests that help diagnose dry eyes. Your ophthalmologist may do a test that measures the quality or the thickness of your tears. He or she may also measure how quickly you produce tears.
How Is Dry Eye Treated?
Your ophthalmologist might tell you to use artificial tears. These are eye drops that are like your own tears. You can use artificial tears as often as you need to. You can buy artificial tears without a prescription. There are many brands. Try a few until you find a brand that works best for you.
If you use artificial tears more than six times a day or are allergic to preservatives, you should use preservative-free tears. This is because if the tears with preservatives are used a lot, these chemicals may start to irritate your eyes.
Your ophthalmologist may suggest blocking your tear ducts. This makes your natural tears stay in your eyes longer. Tiny silicone or gel plugs (called punctal plugs) may be inserted in your tear ducts. These plugs can be removed later as needed. Your ophthalmologist could also recommend surgery that permanently closes your tear ducts.
Increasing your tears
Your ophthalmologist might have you use a special eyedrop medication. This helps your eyes make more of their own tears.
Treating dry eye culprits
If your eyes are irritated, your ophthalmologist can treat those problems. They may recommend:
- prescription eye drops or ointments
- warm compresses on the eyes
- massaging your eyelids
- certain eyelid cleaners
Dry eye prevention tips
- Try not to use a hair dryer, if possible.
- Stay away from very warm rooms. In the winter, add moisture to the air with a humidifier. Or put a pan of water near your heater or radiator.
- Protect your eyes from drying wind by wearing wrap-around glasses outside.
- Talk to your ophthalmologist about adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet for dry eye relief. They are found naturally in oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, and anchovies), and in flaxseeds. Omega-3 fatty acids can be added as a dietary supplement (pill or tablet).
- Do you wake up with dry and scratchy eyes? Use artificial tear ointment or thick eye drops just before you go to bed.