Dry eye is a chronic and progressive disease.
In an effort to manage its symptoms, eye drops are traditionally recommended in order to achieve relief from dry, itchy or irritated eyes. But like any medicine, there are limits on the duration of its effectiveness as well as how much eye drops should be used. Over-the-counter as well as controlled eye drops usually have daily use recommendations and are not intended to be used regularly beyond a period of a few weeks. The only exception is if your doctor instructs you to use them on a daily basis.
In fact, overusing eyedrops can actually do more harm than good over the long term, according to the team at Laser Eye Center. Here’s why:
A Short-Term Fix vs. a Long-Term Solution
Eye drops are a quick fix for instant dry eye relief. However, if you regularly exceed the recommendations for daily use, or you regard them as a cure for your condition, you might be exacerbating your eye problems.
Let’s say you use medicated eye drops for eye redness. The drops work by constricting the blood vessels to the sclera (i.e., the white part of the eye), which takes care of irritation or redness. But as soon as you stop taking the drops, your blood vessels enlarge and redden to deliver much-needed oxygen and nutrients to the sclera. This causes a “rebound” effect that can cause you to become dependent on the drops.
Or, if your eyes are dry and itchy all the time, you might use artificial tears to help moisturize them. But overusing artificial tears can actually wash away your eye’s own natural tears, making your eyes even drier.
Importantly, artificial tears are not a cure for dry eyes. In 86 percent of cases of dry eye disease, the culprit is a problem with the meibomian glands of the eyelids. These glands line your upper and lower lids and are the site of production of your natural oil film. When we blink, we lift up the oils produced in our meibomian glands, thereby covering the surface of the eye and preventing the tears from evaporating. Over time, the meibomian glands can become blocked or clogged with oily secretions due to environmental factors such as pollution as well as our sedentary lifestyle in which we stare at a computer screen for an average of six to nine hours per day. Malfunctioning meibomian glands cause the eye’s natural tears to evaporate too quickly off the surface of the eyes. As a result, the eyes dry out. Worse, if the clogged glands are not addressed in time, they die off, making the disease a condition that is chronic and irreversible.
No amount of eye drops can address the root cause of dry eye and restore proper meibomian gland function — but a convenient in-office, non-drug treatment called iLux can. The iLux handheld device applies a combination of therapeutic heat and gentle pressure to the meibomian glands to melt and express the thickened oils and restore normal oil secretion to the eye’s tear film. Treatment takes about eight minutes and is not painful at all. The results are significant and lasting, be it as a preventative measure or to treat already clogged glands. Similar to a deep cleaning at a dentist, most people experience long-lasting and significant relief from iLux that lasts for about six months.