What causes dry eyes?
Environmental conditions, changes in hormone (menopause), medications, rheumatologic disease and abnormalities of eyelids can all cause dry eyes.
How can dry eyes be treated?
There are a variety of treatment strategies for dry eyes:
1. Artificial tears/ointments
These are the least expensive and easiest first line treatment for dry eyes. Some patients will need to constantly lubricate the eye throughout the day, even if they don’t feel as though they are dry. Preservative free artificial tears are often beneficial, as preservatives can cause irritation in some patients especially if used very frequently.
2. Punctal occlusion
Punctal plugs are temporary plugs that are placed in the small opening, or puncta, where the tears normally drain into the nose. The plugs are usually made of silicone or collagen and when placed properly in the office, most patients cannot even feel them!
Restasis is a drop which causes the lacrimal gland (the gland that makes tears) to produce more tears. It is a great treatment, because the patient is producing their own tears, however it takes 6 weeks to achieve an effect. Also, patients will sometimes complain of a stinging sensation.
4. Permanent punctal occlusion
For patients with very severe dry eyes, the opening for the tear drainage system can be closed permanently with surgery. The surgery is an outpatient procedure and is performed under local anesthesia.