Lifestyle and home remediesBy Mayo Clinic staff
If you experience mild or occasional dry eyes symptoms, you may be able to manage your condition with over-the-counter eyedrops and frequent eyelid washing.
Adding tears with over-the-counter eyedrops
Mild cases of dry eyes may be relieved by over-the-counter artificial tears. A variety of artificial tears are available, so ask your doctor or eye doctor which drops might be best for you. Some ideas to help you select eyedrops include:
- Preservative vs. nonpreservative drops. Preservatives are added to some eyedrops to prolong shelf life. You can use eyedrops with preservatives up to four times a day. But using the preservative drops more often can cause eye irritation. Nonpreservative eyedrops come in packages that contain multiple single-use vials. After you use a vial, you must throw it away. If you rely on eyedrops more than four times a day, nonpreservative drops are safe.
- Drops vs. ointments. Lubricating eye ointments coat your eyes, providing longer lasting relief from dry eyes. But ointments are thick and can cloud your vision. For this reason, ointments are best used just before bedtime. Eyedrops can be used at any time and won't interfere with your vision.
How often you need to put eyedrops in your eyes will depend on your symptoms. Some people need to put drops in every hour, and some need eyedrops only once a day.
Washing your eyelids to control inflammation
For people with blepharitis and other conditions that cause eyelid inflammation that blocks the flow of oil to the eye, frequent eyelid washing may help. To wash your eyelids:
- Apply a warm washcloth to your eyes. Wet a clean cloth with warm water. Hold the cloth over your eyes for five minutes. Re-wet the cloth with warm water when it cools. Gently rub the washcloth over your eyelids to loosen any debris.
- Use a mild soap on your eyelids. Use baby shampoo or another type of soap recommended by your doctor. Put the soap on your clean fingertips and gently massage your closed eyes near the base of your eyelashes. Rinse the soap completely away.
Your doctor may recommend that you do this daily, even when you don't have dry eyes symptoms. Stopping this daily routine may cause your dry eyes to return.
- Facts about dry eye. National Eye Institute. http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/dryeye/dryeye.asp. Accessed June 14, 2012
- Preferred Practice Pattern: Dry eye syndrome. San Francisco, Calif.: American Academy of Ophthalmology. http://one.aao.org/CE/PracticeGuidelines/PPP_Content.aspx?cid=127dbdce-4271-471a-b6d9-464b9d15b748. Accessed June 14, 2012.
- Shtein RM. Dry eyes. http://www.uptodate.com/index. Accessed June 14, 2012.
- Yao W, et al. Dry eye syndrome: An update in office management. The American Journal of Medicine. 2011;124:1016.
- Stevenson W, et al. Dry eye disease. Archives of Ophthalmology. 2012;130:90.
- Treatment. TearScience.com. http://www.tearscience.com/physician/in-officeprocedure/treatment/. Accessed June 21, 2012.
- Care of the patient with ocular surface disorders. St. Louis, Mo.: American Optometric Association. http://www.aoa.org/x4813.xml. Accessed June 14, 2012.
- Rand AL, et al. Nutritional supplements for dry eye syndrome. Current Opinion in Ophthalmology. 2011;22:279.
- Arita R, et al. Caffeine increases tear volume depending on polymorphisms within the adenosine a2a receptor gene and cytochrome p450 1a2. Ophthalmology 2012;119:972.
- Robertson DM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 27, 2012.