What Really Works To Treat Dry Eyes?
What causes dry eyes?
Dry eyes are classified into two groups:
What treatments work for dry eyes?
- Using artificial tears. Artificial tears or eye drops are the first-line treatment for dry eyes. They come in many brands and forms (e.g. liquid, gel, ointment) without a prescription. Preservative-free artificial tears, while more expensive, are often recommended because some folks will be sensitive to preservatives. One drop four times a day is the place to start, and you may feel relief in a few days. Also, remember that gels and ointments can blur vision because they are greasy.
- Changing your environment. Minimizing exposure to air conditioning or heating, and adding a humidifier to your bedroom may also help.
- Taking omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A few good studies have shown that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid supplements may improve symptoms of dry eye. In a study with TheraTears Nutrition Omega-3 Supplement, one 1200 mg capsule daily improved dry eyes. This could be worth a try.
- Getting acupuncture. It’s interesting to note that small studies have shown some improvement in dry eye symptoms following acupuncture therapy.
- Using Restasis. Restasis is a brand-name formulation of the immunosuppressant drug, cyclosporine. It’s available with a prescription for the treatment of chronic dry eye. With Restasis, it may take six weeks or longer to see noticeable improvements. Most of my patients tell me they “think” it helped, but in the end, they couldn’t afford it. It is expensive, but give it a try if cheaper effective options haven’t helped. In some patients, Restasis may resolve dry eyes for the long term, but it’ll cost you.
A note about cost:
As you consider your options, you’ll want to weigh the costs and benefits. Most often, dry eyes are a chronic condition that requires chronic treatment. Only rarely is there a specific cause of dry eyes that can be eliminated, like a medication side effect or symptom of uncontrolled diabetes.
This means if you have chronic dry eyes, you may be using a treatment indefinitely—and the cost can add up quickly. Restasis made a whopping $1.4 billion in the first half of 2015 alone. A typical prescription of Restasis can cost upwards of several hundreds of dollars, while a bottle of artificial tears can cost as little as $5 with a GoodRx discount.
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