Many factors—hormones, health conditions, age, lifestyle and even vision correction surgery—can contribute to dry eye. Frequently, people who experience dry eye can find relief by making adjustments to their environment and day-to-day routines.
If lifestyle changes are not enough, there is also an ever-expanding array of over-the-counter medicines to treat dry eye. These treatments are palliative—meaning they reduce discomfort, but they cannot cure dry eye. Talk to your doctor about which brands and ingredients are right for your particular situation.
Artificial tears: Also called eye drops, artificial tears are the first line of treatment for mild cases of dry eye. They are also used to keep the eye lubricated after laser eye surgery and cataract surgery. Over-the-counter eye drops come with a wide variety of ingredients and in varying thicknesses. The thicker gel-like products last longer, but can blur vision. Preservative-free options are a good choice for people who have sensitivities to certain chemicals.
Contact lens solution: Rewetting drops differ from artificial tears in one important way: they are specifically designed to be compatible with contact lenses. Figuring out what is causing the dry eye in contact lens wearers—the contacts, the lens care products or something else entirely—can be a challenge. That is why it’s important to stick with the care regime recommended by your eye doctor and discuss any product changes you make. Using the wrong eye drops with contacts can ruin the lenses and harm the eye.
Supplements: Dietary supplements are showing promise for preventing and treating dry eye. Research has shown a link between low intake of omega-3 fatty acids and dry eye. A diet with a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids may reduce symptoms of dry eye. A small 2015 study found that women with low vitamin D levels had dry eyes, too.
Redness removers: Redness removers can be useful for situations where having red eyes is a problem, but they are not a true treatment for dry eye.