The People's Perspective on Medicine

What Can You Do to Relieve Dry Eyes?

Dr. Peter McDonnell, director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, discusses the best treatments for dry eyes.

Peter J. McDonnell, MD, is the director of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute. He is professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In this bonus interview, he explains what we can do to alleviate dry eyes. This is a very common eye problem that may be made worse by vision-correcting surgery.

Listen to what he has to say:

You can listen to the rest of the interview with Dr. McDonnell in which he discusses common chronic eye problems and what to do about them. It is Show 1050, How to Protect Your Vision.


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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Show 1050: How to Protect Your Vision (Archive)
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Show 1050: How to Protect Your Vision (Archive)
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Often, those who are most “trained” simply have the inability to assess and resolve the most simple problems. As a young man I often had dry eye and infections around the eyes. It was most embarrassing. I lived in a climate in which the humidity and heat were often excessive, and I believe this contributed to the problem by blocking the ducts and exacerbating the infections. My aunt, who had the same problem as a young girl, advised to use hot compresses daily and then use a Q-tip and baby oil along the edges of the eyelids and beneath the eyes. It worked well, and the incidence of such problems became rare.

As I grew older, I had an epiphany: If warm compresses result in resolution, e.g. warmth directed at the eyes, would it not be easier to simply direct warm water from the shower at your closed eyes and clean out the area, clear the ducts and stimulate tear production? I tried it. I have done it every day since while taking a shower, and I have never had another problem. Occasionally I will also use the Q-tip and baby oil if I feel a scratchiness developing. Although I am relatively intelligent and a professional, it would not take a rocket scientist to come to this conclusion. Nor do you need an “eye spa” to do the same thing, and certainly do NOT play around with putting chemicals in your eyes. THAT should be obvious.

I buy Hylo-Forte brand hyaluronic acid eye drops online from
10 ml bottle, no preservatives, lasts 4-6 months. Price changes weekly, monthly.
Canadian pharmacies sell hyaluronic acid eye drops over-the-counter.

I have extremely dry eyes. I do use a product called Hyalogic Hyaluronic Acid for Eye Health
Also what really helps me is Terry Naturally Dry Eye Relief with sea buckthorn oil and pulp.
I tried the sea buckthorn oil and it did not work. I have been using these products for a few years. Available online.

Vitamin A is a listed ingredient in I Cap eye vitamins recommend by our eye doctor who installed new artificial lenses and removed cataracts. Vitamin A (Curotine) is available from animal sources such as milk, youghert, eggs, liver, Chicken, Beef. It alos acts as a catalist for plant sources such as dark green vegetables, and fruits.

My doctor has prescribed Primrose Oil capsules for my dry eyes(1.000 mg.) twice daily. Please comment.

This might be a reasonable approach if you are also using eye drops (artificial tears without preservatives) to help lubricate your eyes.

I also had a problem with dry eyes and used eye drops daily for over a year. Then I got tear duct plugs and never used another drop. The procedure is very quick and easy. The doctor put a drop in each eye to block the pain and then stretched out the tear ducts a little and inserted a plug in each one. It took about five minutes and solved my dry eye problem.

I have heard that taking flaxseed oil helps to reduce dry eyes. Anyone have any experience with this?

I have not found any U.S. available eye drops with hyaluronic acid. Please let me know if any of you have. They use products in Europe but not here.

Thank you, this was very helpful. In this day and age of intensive computer use, I wish more employers would focus on this frustrating problem. I think they should treat dry eye syndrome with the same amount of attention that they devote to carpal tunnel syndrome. At my last organization, my desk was positioned directly under an air-conditioning vent. I wanted the air turned off completely (I also have Hashimoto’s, so getting too hot is never a problem for me), yet they refused to do so, saying it was a health hazard.

How about the dry-eye effects of prostaglandins prescribed for potential glaucoma? These might cause the problem. I sit at a computer most of the day and have no dry-eye problems. But I must use a prostaglandin at bed time. I wake up two or three times at night with eyes so dry my eyelids are stuck-it hurts to open them and must splash water onto my face. As Dr. McDonnell points out, most of the OTC eye drops make things worse.

At the suggestion of my ophthamologist, I recently switched to applying the prostaglandin upon rising. This works somewhat better: fewer dry eye awakenings and better daytime management by natural blinking (and a little eye rubbing).

I suppose it’s worth mentioning that most of the prostaglandins contain benzalkonium chloride. The only one that doesn’t is very expensive and probably not covered by most Part D plans.

Did you ever notice that most ophthamologists complain about their glaucoma patients being non-compliant–and ignore the patients’ complaints about the treatment side effects? Did you ever wonder if there’s a connection between compliance and poor quality of life due to side effects?

I have been using Restasis for several months,and was recently prescribed a new product, XIIDRA, cost:$537.09 per month. Needless to say, I won’t be using that!
My question is: What is the benefit of using these expensive drops, instead of over the counter products, since neither one cures dry eyes.

This is excellent information. I plan to throw away all of my many bottles of drops with preservatives and look for one with hyaluronic acid.

Maureen makes a good point: usually there are two types of people: some respond better to audio presentations and others to visual. If possible, it is best to have both available.

Please understand that we appreciate your willingness to share this information with us as we attempt to remain healthy in a medical environment where our 15 minute appointments seem as though they lasted a few seconds.

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