Making Dry Eye Disappear

Edward Fisher, PhD, RPh, and Mohammad J. Tafreshi, PharmD, BCPS
Published Online: Friday, December 1, 2006

This article is brought to you by Allergan Dry Eye

Dry eye is the most common complaint people in the United States have involving the eyes. Symptoms of dry eye may include the following:

  • Blurred vision
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Eye discomfort, burning, or redness
  • Increased awareness of the eye
  • A feeling of grit or sand in the eye
  • Sensitivity to light

Closing and resting your eyes may result in some relief. However, nonprescription artificial tears can help relieve the symptoms of dry eye.

Causes of Dry Eye

These symptoms may be caused by either a decrease in the production of your own tears or an increase in the evaporation of moisture from your eyes. Your symptoms may get worse as the day progresses. Your eyes may become very sensitive to changes in the environment. These symptoms may start slowly and occur once in a while over weeks to months.

Other causes of dry eye are as follows:

  • LASIK surgery (a surgical procedure that can reduce a person's dependency on glasses or contact lenses)
  • Certain other disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or diabetes

Risk Factors for Dry Eye

Some people are more likely than others to have dry eye:

  • Women who are close to reaching menopause or have already reached menopause
  • Women past menopause who are taking hormone therapy
  • People who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet
  • Heavy alcohol drinkers

Your Pharmacist's Role

Your pharmacist can play a major role in helping you determine whether your eye discomfort is related to dry eye. He or she can help you select an appropriate overthe- counter artificial tears product for this condition and can teach you how to use it properly.Your pharmacist also can help you know when you should see an eye-care specialist (see box).

Your Doctor's Role

To determine whether you are suffering from dry eye, your doctor may ask you a series of questions:

  • How often do your symptoms occur?
  • Does your eye discomfort keep you from enjoying certain activities, such as reading, driving at night, or watching television?
  • Does your eye discomfort increase in certain environments, such as wind, low humidity, or air conditioning?
  • Are you taking any hormone therapy or any medications for anxiety or depression?

Dry Eye Products

Several drug companies make artificial tears for dry eye. These products vary mainly according to their ingredients, whether or not they contain preservatives, and how they are intended to be used.

Certain preservatives in these products may have adverse effects on your eyes or may cause an allergic reaction. The risk of adverse effects increases depending on how long you use the drops and the number of drops you use per day.

Other products are preservative-free or contain disappearing preservatives (ones that break down on contact with the eye). They may be more appropriate if you have sensitive eyes, however, especially if you are going to use the drops for a long time.

OPTIVE is a new artificial tears formulation from Allergan that has just come on the market. It contains a disappearing preservative, PURITE (the type that breaks down and dissolves away immediately upon contact with the eye). OPTIVE provides moisture to your eyes while also hydrating cells—the areas where dry eye begins—providing longer-lasting relief and protection to your eyes. OPTIVE may provide an effective and safe approach to the treatment of dry eye.

Using Dry Eye Products

Applying eye products properly is very important (see box). If you are using more than 1 kind of drop,wait 5 minutes before putting in the other drop. Wait 10 minutes before applying an ointment.

Distribute the artificial tears by moving the closed eye, without rubbing it with your finger. (You may experience blurred vision temporarily after applying an ointment.)

If you use your artificial tears product 3 times a day for a number of days without relief, you may need to do the following:

  • Try another product with different ingredients
  • Apply an ointment at bedtime
  • See your eye-care specialist to find out if you have chronic dry eye and need a prescription therapy

Conclusion

Remember to consult your pharmacist about your symptoms and about what product you should use for dry eye. Also be sure to call your eye-care specialist if your symptoms persist despite the use of an artificial tears product.

Dr. Fisher is a professor at Midwestern University College of Pharmacy-Glendale (MWU-CPG). Dr. Tafreshi is an associate professor at MWU-CPG.




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