The primary treatments for dry eyes are artificial tears and lubricating ointments. If over-the-counter products provide insufficient relief, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the prescription eye drop Restasis, which helps the eye increase its natural tear production.
Chronically dry eyes are associated with aging, particularly in postmenopausal women. They are also associated with some chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren's syndrome. Too much exposure to dry air, heat or air currents blowing across the face can be a contributing factor, as can some medications. Another factor is blinking too infrequently, a problem commonly associated with heavy computer use.
Lifestyle changes that improve dry eyes include maintaining adequate hydration, reducing or eliminating alcohol use and smoking, using a room humidifier and maintaining good hygiene of the eyelids. There is some evidence that increasing dietary intake of fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids can be helpful. People with dry eyes should avoid exposure to aerosol chemicals and sprays and should avoid using eye drops that contain alcohol.
In some cases, a doctor may recommend using a temporary plug in the ducts that drain tears away from the eyes. If this improves symptoms, the doctor may consider cautery of the tear ducts or permanent plugs.