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Some people do not produce enough tears or the appropriate quality of tears to keep the eye healthy and comfortable. This is known as "dry eye". While this occurs mostly in women after menopause, the symptoms are frequently experienced by men and women in younger years, as well.
The symptoms of "dry eye" can be mild, as in a bit of burning, but only after extended reading, computer, or driving tasks. Note that these all involved sustained visual concentration, that often results in decreased blinking. This is what prevents the normal tears from being coated over the cornea (the clear front "dome" of the eye), and leads to the discomfort. If nothing is done, the vision quality diminishes, due to the corneal surface no longer being smooth and lustrous.
In severe cases, patients may use lubrication drops up to every 12-20 minutes to avoid uncomfortable or even painful symptoms. Everyone is different, and there is a full spectrum of the degree to which "dry eye" can affect our patients.
Eye drops, or artificial tears, lubricate your eyes and help provide moisture. Since eye drops are available without prescription, and many brands are on the market, we recommend trying several types to ensure you find the best one for you. Usually, we'll provide you with different samples, of different thicknesses, for you to try out.
If you are sensitive to the preservatives in artificial tears, preservative-free eye drops are available. They may be a better option for you if you need to use artificial tears more often than every two hours. You can use the preservation-free eye drops as often as needed.
Restasis® helps increase your eyes’ natural capability to produce tears, if that ability is being reduced by inflammation due to chronic dry eye, or other immune-related disease. In some cases, people find that they begin to procuce more tears, and are able to reduce the frequency of their regular tear application. Typically, Restasis is used twice a day, and patients may feel some improvement after a month or two, though often it may take up to 4-6 months of continued use to really see a difference. Clearly, starting Restasis treatment requires a long-term commitment, but can be an extraordinary benefit for many patients.
Xiidra® is a new prescription eye drop that is used to treat the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease. Xiidra works to reduce inflammation by inhibiting the secretion of inflammatory cytokines. Xiidra is used twice a day, and patients are said to note an improvement in symptoms after only two weeks of use. Xiidra is intended for long term use in order to observe the full effect of the medication.
Conserving your own tears is another way to keep your eyes moist. Normally, your tears drain out away from the eye through a small channel into the nose. This is why your nose runs when you cry. It's possible to place a plug in those openings in a brief procedure in the office. Usually, 1 of the 2 normal openings are closed to see if this helps. The channels can be closed either temporarily or permanently to conserve your own tears and to make your artificial tears last longer.