Medications for Dry Eye Syndrome

NYU Langone doctors recommend medication for dry eye syndrome, especially if it does not go away after you’ve made recommended lifestyle changes. Most of these medications, such as artificial tears and lid scrubs, can be purchased over the counter. Your doctor may also prescribe a medication to manage blepharitis, an inflammation of oil glands along the rim of the eyelid that is one of the most common causes of dry eye syndrome.

Artificial Tears

NYU Langone ophthalmologists often suggest the use of artificial tears for mild dry eye syndrome. This is an over-the-counter medication available as an eye drop that helps to replace or supplement the tear film, the natural layer of water, oil, and mucus that keeps the eyes moist. The drops are typically used in both eyes, two to four times each day, and are available in different concentrations, or strengths. Your doctor can recommend specific brands and dosing information based on your symptoms. 

If you wear contact lenses and have been diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, your doctor may recommend that you use artificial tears designed especially for people who wear contact lenses. These help to lubricate the eyes and prevent the lenses from drying out.

Compresses and Lid Scrubs

Blepharitis—a condition in which the oil glands along the eyelid become blocked so that not enough oil reaches the tear film—is one of the most common causes of dry eye syndrome. Treating and managing it is one of the best ways to prevent dry eyes. If you are prone to this condition, your doctor can advise you on ways to prevent blepharitis, such as removing eye makeup each night, protecting your eyes if you work around dust or chemical irritants, and treating any skin conditions that may contribute to clogged oil glands along the eyes. 

If you have blepharitis, your ophthalmologist may recommend applying warm compresses to your eyes, because heat helps to loosen the oil on the surface of your eyelids, and, ultimately, unblock the glands. Your ophthalmologist may also recommend an eyelid scrub, in which you lightly rub a cleansing solution on the eyelid to remove oil and material on the surface. You can order these online or purchase them over the counter at a pharmacy.

For more severe symptoms of blepharitis, a low daily dose of an antibiotic called doxycycline, which is taken by mouth, can help to decrease inflammation and improve the functioning of the oil glands.

Anti-Inflammatory Medications

If you have blepharitis, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic or steroid eye drop to reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms. Topical ointments may be used as well. These medicines may be helpful for the treatment of blepharitis, although they are not as effective as warm water and lid scrubs. Steroid eye drops cannot be used for extended periods of time.

For severe dry eye syndrome, your ophthalmologist may recommend that you use cyclosporine, known by the brand name Restasis®, an anti-inflammatory medicated eye drop designed for long-term use. NYU Langone doctors may recommend this medication to people who have autoimmune conditions, such as Sjogren’s syndrome or systemic lupus erythematosus, that can cause an inflammation of the lacrimal gland, the gland that helps produce tears. Restasis® helps to decrease inflammation of the lacrimal gland. The drops are typically administered twice a day. It may take weeks or months before symptoms of dry eye syndrome go away completely. 

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