Dry eye syndrome is a chronic and typically progressive condition. Depending on its cause and severity, it may not be completely curable. But in most cases, dry eyes can be managed successfully, usually resulting in noticeably greater eye comfort, fewer dry eye symptoms, and sometimes sharper vision as well.

Because dry eye disease can have a number of causes, a variety of treatment approaches are used. Successful treatment of dry eyes requires that you are willing to follow your doctor’s recommendations and that you use the products he or she recommends consistently and as frequently as directed.

Artificial Tears

For mild cases of dry eyes caused by computer use, reading, schoolwork and other situational causes, the best dry eye treatment may simply be frequent use of artificial tears or other lubricating eye drops.

Man using artificial tears
Artificial tears usually are the first step in dry eye treatment.

There are many brands of artificial tears that are available without a prescription. The challenge with using artificial tears is not lack of product availability — it’s the confusing number of brands and formulations available to choose from.

Artificial tears and other over-the-counter (OTC) lubricating eye drops are available in a wide variety of ingredients and viscosity (“thickness”).

Artificial tears with low viscosity are “light” and watery. They often provide quick relief with little or no blurring of your vision when you apply them. But often their soothing effect is very short-lived, and sometimes you must use these drops very frequently to get adequate dry eye relief.

On the other hand, artificial tears that have a high viscosity are more gel-like and can provide longer-lasting lubrication. But typically these drops cause significant blurring of your vision for several minutes immediately after you apply them. For this reason, these drops often are not a good choice for use during your work day or when you need immediate clear vision for tasks such as driving. Instead, high-viscosity artificial tears are recommended only for bedtime use.

Also, the ingredients in certain brands of artificial tears may determine which type of dry eye condition they are better suited for. For example, one brand might work better for aqueous-deficiency dry eyes, while another brand may be more effective for an evaporative dry eye condition.

If your eye doctor recommends that you use one or more brands or formulations of artificial tears, be sure to follow the directions he or she gives you concerning when and how often you use the drops. Also, do not substitute different brands from those your eye doctor recommends. Using a different brand or multiple brands of artificial tears will make it difficult to assess the success of the dry eye treatment your doctor recommended.

Punctal Plugs

Punctal plugs are sometimes used in dry eye treatment to help tears remain on the surface of the eye longer.

Drawing of lacrimal glands with punctal plug. Image: Oasis Medical, Inc.
This drawing shows the lacrimal glands and tear ducts. A lacrimal plug (or punctal plug) has been inserted into the lower tear duct to keep the eye’s moisture from draining away too quickly. Image: Oasis Medical, Inc.

A punctal plug is a small, sterile device that is inserted into one of the small openings (puncta) of tear drainage ducts that are located in the inner corner of the upper and lower eyelids.

After these openings have been plugged, tears can no longer drain away from the eye through these ducts. In this way the tear film stays intact longer on the surface of the eye, relieving dry eye symptoms.

So where do the tears go? Usually they will simply evaporate from the eye surface without symptoms. But if insertion of punctal plugs causes the eyes to “water,” one or more of the plugs can be removed.

If you would like to learn more or book an appointment at Labuschagne & Alberts Optometrists simply call: 018 468 8903 or come make a visit at 10 Rockwill Square Corner William & Austin Streets, Wilkoppies.