Relief From Dry Eye Discomfort: From Over-the-Counter Drips to Prescription Solutions


Experiencing discomfort due to dry eye symptoms? Eye drops can bring much-needed relief. Over-the-counter artificial tear solutions are available for mild cases, while prescription eye drops are steadily gaining traction for more advanced concerns.

Typically, your lacrimal glands located above the eyeballs replenish your tears to maintain eye moisture. The seamless process is hardly ever noticed, let alone considered when it’s functioning correctly.

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However, alterations in hormones, autoimmune diseases, and certain medications such as antihistamines and antidepressants can potentially disrupt your tear production. Resultantly, your eyes may become insufficiently lubricated and develop dry eye. It can also occur when the tears evaporate too fast or fail to hydrate the eyes properly. The phenomenon titled “evaporative dry eye” is caused by a reduced secretion of oil or meibum into the tear film by the meibomian glands.

Regardless of the causal factors, the discomfort of dry eye can be intense, turning your eyes red, irritated, and even painful, with a burning or sandy sensation. A lack of tears risks compromising the smooth, clear, and moist surface of your eyes, leading to potential blurring of vision.

Several eye drop remedies are available to relieve dry eye symptoms. It is essential to consult a doctor before considering any treatment, ensuring personalized recommendations aligned with your medical history.

Over-the-counter artificial tears are widely used for mild dry eye symptoms. They work by ensuring the exterior surface of your eyes remain moist, providing relief from redness, itchiness, or irritation. Further, these artificial tears — purchasable without a prescription at drugstores and big box stores — are user-friendly and easily accessible.

However, it’s crucial to read any packaging labels carefully. Some artificial tears contain preservatives that hinder bacterial growth but might worsen your eye irritation when used several times daily. In such scenarios, a preservative-free alternative may be more suitable. Keep in mind; eye drops shouldn’t be used more than four times a day. If further treatment is required, consult your doctor about other options like gel drops and ointments. These are typically denser and provide prolonged relief, making them perfect for nighttime use.

If artificial tears don’t provide relief or your dry eye symptoms are severe, prescription eye drops may be a viable solution. The options include cyclosporine eye drops, an immunosuppressant medication like Restasis or Cequa, prescribed for chronic dry eye conditions caused by autoimmune diseases such as Sjogren’s. They help reduce inflammation in the tear glands and are used twice daily.

Another prescription treatment could be lifitegrast (Xiidra), an anti-inflammatory drug known as part of the lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1) antagonists’ category. Used twice every day, it works through reducing tissue swelling, but it might take up to three months for the full benefits to take effect.

Ocular corticosteroid eye drops like Eysuvis, the first FDA-approved corticosteroid eye drop for short-term use, might be recommended by your doctor. It contains the active ingredient loteprednol that helps the drug work and requires four drops to be instilled in each eye daily. This medication, though a corticosteroid, is deemed safe for usage up to about two weeks.

Finding suitable eye drops to relieve dry eye symptoms may need some experimentation. If an underlying medical condition that affects your tear production is present, eye drops may not be sufficient on their own. In such cases, your doctor can guide you to the right treatment or a combination of treatments to improve dry eye symptoms.