Almost everyone will experience dry eyes at some point in their lives. Be it after LASiK surgery, after staring at your computer for too long, or after prolonged exposure to winds in cold weathered countries.
We’ve all had that stinging, biting, gritty sensation in our eyes that rather ironically, brings about sudden, excessive and annoying tearing. Our eyes start to well up, and soon enough, our vision blurs.
Eyedrops! We know that’ll do the trick! Unfortunately, for many of us, eyedrops are just a temporary solution and more often than not, putting in the drops consistently can be a mean feat.
Don’t get me wrong, eyedrops ARE the perfect first-line solution for those with mild dry eye symptoms. However, many Singaporeans at my eye clinic often find that eye drops are completely ineffective!
This article serves to uncover the various other options available to those with more debilitating dry eye symptoms, and those who have issues with eyedrop compliance (meaning, doctor ask you to do, but you never follow!)
1. Eye mist sprays
You may have tried face sprays that sprays mist as a way to refresh or moisturize your face. Well, they exist for the eyes too!
The eye mist spray for dry eyes uses patented liposome technology to deposit water and lipids. This helps protect against moisture loss.
Eye mist sprays are incredibly easy to use too - just spray onto each eye while your eyes are closed. The mist then ‘magically’ makes its way into your eyes when you open them.
Meant to be used in combination with eyedrops for better effects, it provides long-lasting moisturising and soothing effect for your eyes.
2. Intense pulsed light (IPL)
We’ve heard of IPL being used for hair removal, depigmentation and acne. Now, IPL can be used to treat dry eyes too! (Albeit, at a lower target dose).
Without going into too much detail, dry eyes is caused by a complex imbalance in the aqueous, lipid and mucous layers of the tear film.
Your meimomian glands are an important part of this equation, and help to produce an oily substance that prevents evaporation of your eye's tear film. Malfunctioning glands disrupts this tear balance - IPL works by transmitting heat to the meibomian glands, in order to restore normal tear function.
IPL has been shown in numerous studies to:
- Unblock meibomian glands
- Decrease bacterial load
- Reduce lid inflammation
- Improve dry eye symptoms.
The procedure is painless and relatively quick with no downtime. Usually, my patients start to feel improvement after 1 - 3 sessions, performed approximately 1 month apart.
Repeated sessions at 6-monthly intervals may be necessary for maintaining its effects.
3. Punctal plugs
In my practice, I insert punctal plugs mostly for:
- Post-Lasik patients
- Post-eyelid surgery patients
- Contact lens wearers who have dry eyes
- Those who want to become less reliant on eyedrops
It may sound like a scary and invasive procedure, but surprisingly, it's not so at all! Inserting punctal plugs is a two-minute long treatment that's painless, and performed with the aid of a microscope. It has zero downtime or adverse effects.
How does it work? Well, we all have two punctums (tear ducts) in each eye that act as ‘drains’ for our tears. We can plug these ‘drains’, similar to how you plug the drain in your bathtub to fill water. This allows you to collect your own tears for a longer period of time.
The plugs are inserted deep into the punctums, so there's no sensation of them there at all. They are also not visible externally.
These plugs only last for 6 months however, as they are made of a collagen-like material that self-dissolves and disappears.
My patients frequently repeat the procedure if they find that there are obvious benefits. Worth a try if you are tired of your eyedrops!
4. Omega-3 oils
We already know the general health benefits of omega-3 oils. There's more good news! Omega-3 oils have been proven to improve the oily component of tears, improve dry eye symptoms and reduce the need for eyedrops.
Taken as an oral supplement, it may be regarded as one’s daily dose of multivitamins! In my experience, the majority of patients on daily omega-3 oil feel a marked improvement, and choose to continue taking it daily.
If however, supplements are not your cup of tea, you can find good amounts in your diet in the form of oily fish such as salmon!
5. Vitamin D
Unknown to many, vitamin D deficiency also leads to dry eye syndrome. In fact, it's directly linked to the severity of dry eyes symptoms.
Although not well-understood, it seems Vitamin D has an anti-inflammatory role, and is protective against dry eyes. Interestingly, many of my patients with refractory dry eyes have been found to have vitamin D deficiency.
It's easy to find out your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test. Vitamin D also can be easily replenished by exposure to sunlight, or ingested as a supplement.
There you go! A simple introduction to non-eyedrop solutions for dry eyes. The beauty about these treatments are that they can all be used at the same time, and even in conjunction with eyedrops to provide greater relief!
If none of these treatments appeal to you, don’t despair. We can still fall back on our trusted eyedrops.
Remember that not all eyedrops (or eyes for that matter) are made equal, and hence choosing the right one for yourself is important.
Your eye doctor will be able to elucidate the specific type of eyedrops that you need. The array of eyedrops is enormous, ranging from:
- Simple natural tears
- Medicated anti-inflammatory drops
- Viscous eye gels
As with all health solutions, simple lifestyle modifications also make a big difference. Here are some easy steps to follow:
- Keep away from direct air conditioning to the eyes
- Choose humidified non-air conditioned rooms
- Sleep with eye masks
- Avoid prolonged periods of computer use
- Reduce your computer light level lower to reduce your eye aperture
Without over-simplifying the intricacies of dry eye syndrome, it must be said that many inflammatory-type or autoimmune-type medical conditions can cause dry eyes.
Hence, if you do suffer from dry eyes, it's best for you to get a check with your eye doctor. He/she will be able to customise the best treatment regime for your needs!
Dr Claudine Pang is a Consultant Ophthalmologist who graduated with a Distinction and Gold Medal in Medical Ethics. With more than 13 years' experience, her forte is in cataract surgery, myopia prevention, macular and retinal diseases. She has 2 cheekily cute kids and spends almost all her time outside work with them. Her hobbies are dancing, golfing and baking.