• Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that can have a big impact on quality of life.
  • Treating the underlying causes of dry eye may help relieve symptoms.
  • Newer therapies can work with older therapies to help you manage dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome, otherwise known as dry eye disease, is a common chronic condition. When your eyes are dry, they can itch, sting, and burn.

You might also have redness, inflammation, and blurry vision. Though it seems counterintuitive, watery eyes can be a sign of dry eye.

A 2017 study estimated that dry eye syndrome affects more than 16 million adults in the United States. Millions more may have undiagnosed dry eye.

Without treatment, dry eye can become a serious quality of life concern. Fortunately, treatment for dry eye is improving — which means your quality of life can improve, too.

In this article, we’ll look at treatment for dry eye syndrome, the latest advances, and daily habits to help ease symptoms.

Nonprescription artificial tears are a good starting point.

When possible, choose preservative-free products because they tend to be less irritating to the eyes. If they don’t work, an eye doctor can prescribe stronger treatments.

One of the newest prescription eye drops is loteprednol etabonate ophthalmic suspension (Eysuvis, Inveltys, Alrex, Lotemax). Eysuvis was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2020. It’s intended for short-term treatment of dry eye.

Approval was based on results from four clinical trials including more than 2,800 people. Eysuvis is an ophthalmic corticosteroid that can be used for up to 2 weeks.

In 2016, the FDA approved lifitegrast (Xiidra) for treatment of dry eye syndrome. It belongs to a class of drugs called lymphocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) antagonists, and it may help with tear production.

Approval of Xiidra was based on findings from four randomized controlled studies that included more than 1,000 people.

Other eye drops and topicals for dry eye include:

  • cyclosporine (Restasis, Cequa), an immunosuppressant that can help your eyes produce more tears
  • eyelid cleaners that you massage on the eyelids to help lower inflammation
  • autologous serum drops that are made from your own blood, used in severe cases when other treatments have failed
  • oral antibiotics to reduce inflammation of the eyelids

Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy delivers gentle pulses of light to the skin around your eyes. This can help reduce inflammation.

One of the newest treatments for dry eye is an IPL device called OptiLight.

Approved by the FDA in 2021, OptiLight aims to improve symptoms of dry eye caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. Approval was based on the results of a double-blind, randomized controlled trial.

Two other devices, Lipiflow and iLux, use heat and pressure to massage your eyelids and help unclog oils.

In some cases, dry eye happens because tears drain from your eyes too quickly. Some remedies for this are:

  • Eye inserts. Hydroxypropyl cellulose ophthalmic inserts (Lacrisert) are about the size of a grain of rice. Your eye doctor will insert them into your eyes near the lower eyelids, and they provide lubrication as they slowly dissolve.
  • Punctal occlusion. This is a procedure in which a plug is inserted into the tear drain of your lower eyelid. Your doctor can use a temporary plug that dissolves on its own, or you can have one made of silicone that must be removed by a doctor.
  • Surgery. A surgeon can tighten your lower eyelids to help your eyes hold on to tears.

According to the American Optometric Association, taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help with dry eye. Omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in a variety of fish, nuts, and seeds.

A 2021 review suggests that, in some cases, vitamin A and D supplementation may help improve symptoms of dry eye.

It’s a good idea to speak with your doctor about potential vitamin deficiencies and whether you should take dietary supplements.

There are many things that can contribute to dry eye or make the situation worse. Incorporating some of these habits into your day may prove helpful.


Some daily practices you can try to help with dry eye include:

  • Avoid rubbing your eyes.
  • Apply a warm compress to your eyelids several times a day.
  • Avoid eye drops with preservatives.
  • Use a humidifier whenever possible.
  • Rest your eyes when they feel irritated.
  • Make it a point to blink more often.
  • Aim for a full night’s sleep every night.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Reduce screen time. If possible, lower the height of your screen so you’re looking slightly down.
  • If you wear contact lenses, make sure you’re wearing and cleaning them properly.
  • Skip wearing contact lenses 1 day per week to help with dryness.


You can try to adjust your environment to help dry eye by doing the following:

  • Try to avoid smoke and other air pollutants.
  • Wear sunglasses or tinted glasses whenever you’re outdoors.
  • Protect your eyes from windy conditions with large glasses or wraparound frames.
  • Try to avoid the breeze from fans and heating and air vents.

You can change your daily habits and try over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears, but knowing the cause of your dry eye may help guide other treatments.

Some of the causes of dry eye are:

  • inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis) or surfaces of the eye
  • inward or outward turning of eyelids
  • low tear production
  • poor quality tears
  • hormonal changes
  • long-term contact lens use
  • certain medications such antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants

Underlying health conditions associated with dry eye syndrome include:

  • psoriasis
  • seborrheic dermatitis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • rosacea
  • Sjögren’s
  • diabetes
  • thyroid disorders
  • Bell’s palsy
  • lupus

Sometimes, treating the underlying condition can help improve dry eye. Treatment may depend on the cause as much as the symptoms, so it’s important to have a doctor make the diagnosis.

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye concern, especially as you get older.

Yet, recent years have brought several improvements in treatment of dry eye — and research is ongoing. Therapies are beginning to focus more on the treating the causes of dry eye rather than just the symptoms.

If OTC products aren’t helping, it may be time to speak with your eye doctor. Be sure to mention all your symptoms any underlying conditions

Your doctor can explain the potential benefits and side effects of each type of treatment and help you choose the therapy that’s right for you.