What Are the Best Eye Drops for Severe Dry Eyes?

Medically Reviewed on 8/12/2021
best eye drops for severe dry eyes
Managing dry eyes usually starts with artificial tears. Learn about effective eye drop ingredients and how they work to relieve symptoms

Managing dry eyes usually starts with artificial tears, eye drops that contain ingredients that help strengthen the integrity of the tear film in the eye. Whether your dry eyes are from exhaustion or an arid climate, artificial tears can supplement your natural tears and provide needed moisture and protection. 

Different brands of artificial tears may contain:

  • Lubricants: Keep your eyes moist.
  • Electrolytes: May help heal the surface of your eye.
  • Guar gum: Useful if your eyes tend to dry up quickly.
  • Preservatives: Used to prevent bacteria growth in the bottle (some people may be allergic to preservatives or experience even more eye irritation, so it’s best to avoid eye drops with preservatives).

6 effective types of eye drops

1. Decongestants

Eye drops that are marketed to clear up red eyes typically contain a decongestant that constricts the blood vessels to whiten the eyes.

However, frequent use of decongestant eye drops can increase redness and irritation, and they’re not recommended for people with very dry eyes or who have conditions such as glaucoma, high blood pressure, or diabetes.

2. Antihistamines

Eye drops for people with allergies typically contain antihistamines and aren’t generally recommended for people with dry eyes because frequent use can increase irritation.

Antihistamines can also increase ocular pressure, so people with glaucoma should consult with their physician before using antihistamine eye drops.

3. Lipids

Lipids, or fats, can reduce the evaporation of tears and are effective for treating severely dry eyes. Lipids used in eye drops include castor oil, glycerin, mineral oil, and flaxseed oil.

4. Anti-inflammatory eye drops

Inflammation caused by dry eyes can be controlled by various eye medications, including: 

5. Lifitegrast

Lifitegrast is a small-molecule integrin antagonist that reduces inflammation. It is available only through prescription.

6. Autologous blood serum drops

These are special drops made from your own blood, used in very critical conditions where your dry eyes are not responding to any other drops or treatment. The drops are produced by taking a sample of your blood, removing the red blood cells (RBCs), and adding salt solution.

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What causes dry eyes?

Dry eyes occur when your tears are no longer able to keep your eyes moist enough to keep them relaxed. This can happen due to various reasons, some of which are biological, others of which are environmental:

  • Reduced tear production because of autoimmune conditions, vitamin A deficiency, thyroid imbalances, etc.
  • Computer vision syndrome (due to constant exposure to laptops, smartphones, and similar devices)
  • Seasonal allergies
  • Advanced age (elderly people are more prone to dry eyes)
  • Changes in the weather
  • Medications such as decongestants, anti-acne pills, or blood pressure pills, which can cause dry eyes as a side effect
  • Contact lenses
  • Eye strain from not blinking enough
  • Bodily changes such as pregnancy or taking medications that alter hormone levels

If you have dry eyes often, it’s a good idea to see your ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam.

How can I relieve dry eyes naturally?

Natural remedies that can help relieve uncomfortable dry eye symptoms include the following:

  • Avoid dry or windy environments or at least protect your eyes with appropriate eyewear, such as wraparound sunglasses, whenever you venture outdoors.
  • Wet a clean compress in warm water and place it on your eyes for 10 minutes.
  • Eat a healthy diet including omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce symptoms of dry eyes and inflammation and enables increased tear quantity and quality.
  • Boost your vitamin A, B12, and D levels. Consult your doctor before taking vitamin supplements.
  • Control blood sugar levels, which is especially important if you have diabetes. Diabetes can cause ocular nerve damage due to restricted blood circulation throughout the body. 
  • Stay hydrated. Drink enough water throughout the day (at least 8 cups) to ensure that your eyes produce enough tears to combat dry eyes. This is especially important if you live in a hot or dry climate.
  • Avoid alcohol and quit smoking.
  • Avoid foods that trigger you to have reactions, such as gluten, nuts, and dairy. When consumed, these foods can cause an inflammatory reaction in the body as well as dry eye symptoms.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/12/2021
References
Do You Use the Right Eye Drops for Your Dry Eyes? https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/right-eye-drops-dry-eyes

Dry eye: https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/dry-eye?sso=y