Q: I have been using various artificial tears for years without much success. My eyes are mildly scratchy or gritty, and I notice I have to blink to clear up my reading vision. What else could I try?
A: Dry eye syndrome or dry eye disease is such a common, and under-diagnosed, eye condition! While still more common for women than men, and generally more of an issue with each passing birthday, we have several new treatments.
Without a doubt, the most surprising is the new medications that restore normal tear moisture by using a nasal spray! We have several now that most patients are finding helpful and providing long relief. And for many people, spraying a medication in the nose can be easier than getting a medication drop into the eye.
I must try to answer the first question everyone asks: How can a nasal spray help the eye? The short answer is that we have a major nerve pathway that supplies both our nose and our eyes. When you apply the medication to the inside of your nose it signals the entire nerve pathway to react...including the branch that takes care of our eye moisture. The result seems impressive, with patients having minimal, if any side effects, and enjoying many hours of moist eyes.
I would also add that you mention one of the most important symptoms of dry eye diseas...vision effects. In fact, for many people, the only clue they have that their eyes are abnormally dry is the fuzziness of their vision. I suppose dry eye syndrome develops so slowly that most of us just assume our eyes “feel normal” when in reality they are much drier than when we were 30.
If you ask, many people will tell you that they have unconsciously “learned” to blink their eyes to clear up their vision. This simply rewets the eye surface that restores our clear vision…especially for reading. Some simple and useful self-tests at home are to blink several times, gently rub your eyes, or instill one drop of an artificial tear drop after you have been reading a while. Generally, while reading ( especially on a digital screen ) we tend to blink less often....resulting in drier eyes. So if you notice sharper vision after trying one of these three steps, you have “diagnosed” your own dry eyes!
Best of all, your eye doctor now has another effective treatment to restore moist comfortable eyes. Do not rely on over-the-counter drops for comfort and vision, get the problem actually solved by restoring more of your own natural tear fluid. Feel better and see better!