February 01, 2017

Dry eyes

Q: My eyes have gotten drier as I’ve gotten older and I’ve tried eyedrops for relief. But some eyedrops feel irritating and others seem to have a rather thick consistency. What options do I have?

A: First off, some people find relief even without buying any special remedies. One option is to apply warm compresses to the eyes. You can use a warm washcloth or a heated beaded mask and apply to the eyes for 10 minutes. Then, gently wash the eyelash and eyelid area using watered-down mild shampoo.

By unplugging any plugged oil gland pores on the eyelid margins, oil from the eyelid can freely glide over the surface of your eye to form a protective layer — much like a sheen of oil can sometimes be seen in parking lot puddles after a rain. This can take a few days to have benefit and it keeps your tears from evaporating so quickly.

If warm compresses and lid scrubs don’t work, you may consider using eyedrops. Avoid eyedrops that state they will reduce redness, as prolonged use of this type of eyedrops can cause irritation. Instead, use artificial tears. Some contain preservatives to prolong shelf life, but these can cause eye irritation if used more than four times a day. For more-frequent use, try preservative-free eyedrops. These come in packages of multiple single-use vials. After you use a vial, you throw it away.

Lubricating eye ointments have a thicker consistency. They coat your eyes, providing longer lasting relief from dry eyes. Since these products can temporarily blur your vision, they are best used just before bedtime.

If nonprescription eyedrops aren’t helping, talk to your eye doctor. Sometimes, an underlying problem, such as Sjögren’s syndrome or rosacea, may need...