Q: I have dry eyes. Can you tell me what kind of drops are best?
A: Dry eye is a very common condition – particularly here in arid Central Oregon. The eye’s tear film is more complex than one might imagine. Aside from the obvious lubrication, it also provides immune support protecting the surface of the eyes from infection and even accounts for up to 10% of the eyes’ optical clarity. A person that doesn’t have sufficient tear volume will often complain of dry, sandy, gritty, burning, and/or watery eyes. This last symptom seems counterintuitive at first, but as the tear film slowly dries out the eye will eventually reach a stage where it realizes it needs to get more moisture to the surface and this often comes in the form of excess tear production. There are many reasons why people get dry eye: age, hormones, eyelid disease, medications, environment, etc. Work with your doctor to establish the cause(s).
Dry eye treatment has seen major advances the past few years. Mild to moderate cases are typically managed with artificial tears and oral Omega-3 supplements. Not all artificial tears are created equally. Since these drops will be used frequently (3-4 times per day) we want a drop that is gentle to the surface of the eyes. Non-preserved drops are the best for this. The preservative that keeps the solution from becoming contaminated can actually have a toxic effect on the ocular surface after repeated uses. The preservative to avoid is Benzalkonium Chloride (BAK). Drops preserved with Purite or Polyquad are much more gentle than those with BAK. Moderate to severe dry eye is typically managed with the addition of topical cyclosporine medication and/or punctal plugs. Both of these therapies are very effective; work with your doctor to decide which is the best for your situation. As always, feel free to contact me at Riverbend Eyecare (541)317-9747.