About 25 percent of eye-doctor visits are for dry-eye complaints, but patients say the doctors don’t offer much help. They advise blinking more and using over-the-counter lubricating drops.
What’s causing the big increase in dry-eye problems?
* Age. Most patients are over 40.
* Soft contact lenses. They absorb fluid on the eye surface.
* Vision correction surgery. Dry eye can be a side effect of the 1.4 million U.S. surgeries done annually.
* Eyelid surgery. Sometimes results in a sliver of an opening when eyes are closed, which dries the eyes.
* Activities in which the eyes are not blinked regularly including computer use and watching television.
* Wind. Outside or from heating and cooling systems in the home and car.
* Dust or allergens in the air.
With a huge need for dry-eye treatments, many pharmaceutical companies are developing new drugs. Right now, here’s what’s available:
Lubricating drops such as Systane, TheraTears, and Refresh.
Proclear and Acuvue Oasys, contact lenses meant to alleviate dry-eye for contact wearers.
Omega-3 fatty acid (a nutritional supplement). A 2005 Harvard study showed the benefits of tuna.
Restasis, an FDA approved prescription drug that has good results in many cases but doesn’t work for everyone.
Goggles: Those by Panoptx and others create a moisture chamber around the eye. They are available at ski shops and motorcycle shops.
Boston Scleral Lens. A custom-fitted prosthetic device that creates a reservoir over the cornea.