Dry Eye Relief

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Your eyes sting, burn or feel gooey. They may tire easily, be sensitive to light, tear, or blur at the end of the day. Chances are you have dry eye—officially called keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Dry eye occurs when tear glands don't produce enough fluid or there's an imbalance in the ingredients—oil, water and mucus—in your tears.

Dry eye is more common as you get older, mainly because you produce fewer tears. Women are especially vulnerable due to the hormonal changes of menopause.

Other culprits: Diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and medicines, including blood pressure medications, sleeping pills, antihistamines, the birth control pill and some antidepressants. Dry eye usually isn't serious, but can be a nuisance.

The frontline therapy? Artificial tears. Available over-the-counter, they come in preserved and non-preserved forms. Both moisten eyes, but if you need to use artificial tears often throughout the day, opt for the non-preserved kind. Preserved tears can irritate eyes in some people.

If artificial tears don't help, talk to your eye doctor. Short term prescription cortisone drops can ease any inflammation that may be causing your problem, and long term prescription Restasis—just two drops a day—can improve tear production in some people. In serious cases, the tear drainage duct can be plugged with a simple office procedure. Decongestant eye drops, which ease redness, don't help dry eye. Save them for red eyes caused by smog or a workout in the pool.

Computer Tips to Prevent Dry Eyes

Whether you work on a computer all day or surf the web nightly, you may be familiar with computer vision syndrome—sore, tired, burning, itchy, watery or dry eyes; sensitivity to light; or trouble focusing as you look from the screen to a paper document. To soothe eyes, the American Optometric Association (AOA) offers these tips:

  • Get rid of glare and shadows. Use shades or blinds to control light levels if you sit near a window. Or buy a computer anti-glare filter for your screen—it'll minimize glare from lights.
  • Clean your screen. Dust and dirt up the squint factor.
  • Adjust character colors. Generally dark letters on a light background are easier to read than light letters on dark.
  • Position your computer correctly. The screen should be 20 to 28 inches from your eyes. The top of it should be below eye level and titled slightly back from you.
  • Take eye breaks. Look away from the computer for five minutes every hour. And blink. Many computer users forget to. The result? Dry eyes.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 15 Mar 2010

Last Modified: 14 Sep 2015