You may be able to manage your dry eyes with frequent eyelid washing and use of over-the-counter (OTC) eyedrops or other products that help lubricate your eyes. If your condition is long term (chronic), use eyedrops even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated.
Selecting and using OTC products for dry eyes
A variety of nonprescription products for dry eyes are available, including eyedrops (artificial tears), gels, gel inserts and ointments. Talk with your doctor about which might be best for you.
Artificial tears may be all you need to control mild dry eye symptoms. Some people need to put drops in several times a day, and some use them only once a day.
Consider these factors when selecting an OTC product:
- Preservative vs. nonpreservative drops. Preservatives are added to some eyedrops to prolong shelf life. You can use eyedrops with preservatives up to four times a day. But using the preservative drops more often can cause eye irritation. Nonpreservative eyedrops come in packages that contain multiple single-use vials. After you use a vial, you throw it away. If you rely on eyedrops more than four times a day, nonpreservative drops are safe.
- Drops vs. ointments. Lubricating eye ointments coat your eyes, providing longer lasting relief from dry eyes. But these products are thicker than eyedrops and can cloud your vision. For this reason, ointments are best used just before bedtime. Eyedrops can be used at any time and won't interfere with your vision.
- Drops that reduce redness. It's best to avoid these as your solution for dry eyes, as prolonged use can cause irritation.
Washing your eyelids to control inflammation
For people with blepharitis and other conditions that cause eyelid inflammation that blocks the flow of oil to the eye, frequent and gentle eyelid washing may help. To wash your eyelids:
- Apply a warm washcloth to your eyes. Wet a clean cloth with warm water. Hold the cloth over your eyes for five minutes. Rewet the cloth with warm water when it cools. Gently rub the washcloth over your eyelids — including the base of the eyelashes — to loosen any debris.
- Use a mild soap on your eyelids. Use baby shampoo or another mild soap. Put the cleanser on your clean fingertips and gently massage your closed eyes near the base of your eyelashes. Rinse completely.
Your doctor may recommend that you do this daily, even when your dry eye symptoms have been relieved. Stopping this daily routine may allow your symptoms to return.
July 24, 2015
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