Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren't able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Tears can be inadequate for many reasons. For example, dry eyes may occur if you don't produce enough tears or if you produce poor-quality tears.
Dry eyes feel uncomfortable. If you have dry eyes, your eyes may sting or burn. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.
Treatments for dry eyes may make you more comfortable. These treatments can include lifestyle changes and eyedrops. You'll likely need to take these measures indefinitely to control the symptoms of dry eyes.
For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, it's enough to regularly use over-the-counter eyedrops (artificial tears). If your symptoms are persistent and more serious, you have other options. What you do depends on what's causing your dry eyes.
Some treatments focus on reversing or managing a condition or factor that's causing your dry eyes. Other treatments can improve your tear quality or stop your tears from quickly draining away from your eyes.
Treating the underlying cause of dry eyes
In some cases, treating an underlying health issue can help clear up the signs and symptoms of dry eyes. For instance, if a medication is causing your dry eyes, your doctor may recommend a different medication that doesn't cause that side effect. If you have an eyelid condition, such as out-turning lids (ectropion), your doctor may refer you to an eye surgeon who specializes in plastic surgery of the eyelids (oculoplastic surgeon). Or if you have rheumatoid arthritis, your doctor may refer you to a rheumatologist.
Prescription medications used to treat dry eyes include:
Other procedures that may be used to treat dry eyes include:
Tear ducts can be plugged with tiny silicone plugs (punctal plugs). These are removable. Or tear ducts can be plugged with a procedure that uses heat. This is a more permanent solution called thermal cautery.
Some people with severe dry eyes may opt for special contact lenses that protect the surface of your eyes and trap moisture. These are called scleral lenses or bandage lenses.