Dry Eye Treatments (Over the counter)

Apr 25, 2023
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Over the counter treatments for dry eye syndrome

Typically, the first treatment that most ophthalmologists will recommend for dry eye treatment are over the counter remedies. These products are very easy to access, and are generally inexpensive.

The first treatment I recommend are artificial tears, which are lubricating eye drops. Many offices will have some samples of these to try, so that the patient can pick his or her own favorite type. Many of the drops have similar, but slightly different ingredient profiles, so it's useful to try various samples, in my opinion. 

Preservative-free artificial tears are probably better for most patients, because some people can become sensitive to the preservative. These come in boxes with individual dropper vials. Think of this like individual ketchup packets instead of one large bottle. 

Some of the larger companies also sell artificial tear gels and ointments. These products are thicker, or in other words, have a higher viscosity. They do a better job lubricating the eyes, but the major trade-off is that they can make the vision more blurry for a short period of time. For this reason, they are more practical when used right before bed, or during a rest or nap time. Gels tend to be water-based with moderate to high viscosity and ointments tend to be oil-based, with the highest level of viscosity. Therefore ointments work best to lubricate, but also stay in the eyes and cause "blur" for the longest period of time. 

If cost becomes an issue with these artificial tears, I recommend looking into buying them in bulk, either online or from one of the large wholesale stores in your area. 

I also recommend using hot compresses to help open up and drain the meibomian glands of the eyelid. These compresses can be used once or twice a day. You can start off using a hot washcloth (not hot enough to burn your skin). If the treatment helps, consider investing in a hot compress mask, sold at most drug stores, and designed for the purpose. 

It's good to follow up the compresses with eyelid wipes, either with manufactured eyelid wipes, or with a warm wash cloth with baby shampoo. This will help remove the residual debris, which will make your eyes feel better. 

Of course, none of this is a substitute for advice from a physician, so if you're having significant issues, you will need to be seen by an ophthalmologist. If you are in the central Florida region, I'm currently accepting new patients.