-The EYE Digest-
Dry Eye Syndrome, Part II
In our previous edition of The EYE Digest we went over symptoms and causes of dry eye syndrome and briefly touched on treatment options. If you need a quick refresher take a look here: Dry Eye Sydrome, Part I.
This week we will dive into dry eye syndrome treatments in depth. Before we can truly understand what these treatments do and why they work, we must understand the tear film a little better. The tear film of the eye is composed of three distinct layers:
- Mucin layer - the inner layer that allows the tear film to adhere to the eye
- Water layer - the middle layer that hydrates, washes out debris and prevents infection
- Oil layer - the outer layer that keeps the water layer from breaking up and evaporating
When we look at dry eye syndromes, they are either caused by some sort of deficiency in the water or oil layer. Thus, treatments revolve around either stimulating production of these layers or creating an artificial fix to these layers.
Lets first look at a couple lifestyle fixes we can make to treat dry eyes. The first and most obvious way is to stay hydrated! The simple task of drinking enough water throughout the day helps not only with health, but hydration of the eye as well.
Another remedy revolves around reducing or eliminating potential environmental instigators of dry eye syndrome. Dusty environments, including sawdust or sand filled environments are classic places that cause a dry eye nightmare. Additionally, fans and air conditioners can play a big part in drying out an otherwise health tear film. Eliminating these environmental factors or reducing them can greatly help an individual with dry eyes.
Using the computer can also cause the eyes to dry out. When we work intensively on a computer or tablet screen, our blink rate (the amount of times we blink per second) can be extensively reduced! This causes the tear film to dry out and can lead to dry eyes. When on the computer, it is important to remember to take frequent breaks. My normal recommendation for my patients is to take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away. This is appropriately called the 20-20-20 rule.
So lets review our lifestyle fixes for dry eye syndrome:
- Drink water and stay hydrated
- Avoid dusty environments
- Eliminate fans and air conditioner when possible
- Take breaks to relax the eyes when working on the computer/tablet
Over-the-counter and Home Remedies
So you have done everything stated above, but dry eyes are still a constant annoyance. What more can you do? Now we move into over-the-counter and home remedies for dry eyes. The most common remedy for dry eyes found over-the-counter is artificial tears. The basic idea here is that we are replenishing a deficient oil or water layer with a formulated drop. This drop may be used sparingly to multiple times a day depending on the severity of the dry eye syndrome.
There are a wide variety of artificial tears that have different ingredients, consistencies, and textures. Often chosing an artificial tear in the eye care aisle at your local grocery or drug store can be daunting since there a so many options! This is where visiting your eye doctor can be beneficial. Your eye doctor will run a series of tests that will determine what type of dry eye syndrome you have and what artificial tear product will work best for you. (Schedule an appointment with Dr. Neufeld or Dr. Pesner to find out what type of dry eye syndrome you may have and what treatments will work best for you -- (650) 948-3700.)
Another important treatment which has gained considerable traction recently in Omega 3 supplementation. This can come through fish oil, krill oil, or flaxseed oil. Omega 3 supplementation has been shown to reduce inflammation in glands that contribute to tear production and improve rate of tear production. In order to get the maximum benefit from an Omega 3 supplement in the dry eye sense, it must be high potency. Specifically, we are looking at 1200 mg of Omega 3 per serving. Due to this, it is important to check the potency of the supplement you are purchasing if you wish to have dry eye benfits from it.
The final over-the-counter treatment is a home remedy called a warm compress. Placing a warm compress on the front of the eyes (with the eyes closed of course!) for 10-15 minutes per day can greatly help dry eyes.
How does this work? Well, on the margins of the eyelid (where the eyelashes meet the eyelid), there sit many Meibomian glands. These glands are responsible for oil production. If these glands begin to get plugged up or clogged, the tear film begins to become lacking in oil and this can lead to dry eyes. A warm compress can open up these oil glands and make the eyes feel much better . Although a warm, wet washcloth is traditionally thought to be the go-to for a warm compress, I find that filling a clean sock with a fistful of dry rice and microwaving for 40 seconds seems to be more beneficial for my dry eye patients.
Let's recap our over-the-counter and home remedies for dry eye syndrome:
- Artificial tears
- Omega 3 supplementation
- Warm compresses
As we can see there are quite a few lifestyle changes and home remedies that can help alleviate symptoms of dry eyes. As always, if you feel symptoms of dry eye syndrome or have questions on treatments, do not hesitate to contact us and schedule an appointment. Your eyes will thank you!
In our next article (Dry Eye Syndrome, Part III) I will go over the various clinical procedures and prescription medications we can use to alleviate more severe forms of dry eye that cannot be treated with methods discussed in this article. Stay tuned!
-Dr. Aaron Neufeld