If home remedies and artificial tears aren’t adequately addressing your dry eye symptoms, a doctor may recommend a medical device or procedure in addition to at-home treatments.

Dry eye syndrome develops when your eyes are chronically dry due to problems with tear production that normally help keep them moisturized and lubricated.

Also called dry eye disease or simply “dry eye,” this condition may develop with age, as well as a variety of health conditions, lifestyle habits, and medications.

One common treatment for mild dry eye is artificial tears. These eye drops can help keep your eyes lubricated and reduce symptoms.

However, these aren’t completely foolproof, as some people may experience excess tear production with dry eye. They also don’t necessarily address the underlying causes of dry eye syndrome.

When artificial tears, which are a common treatment, aren’t enough to manage the symptoms of dry eye, a doctor may recommend certain medical devices and procedures. It’s important to discuss each option with them, along with the potential benefits and risks.

Intense pulsed light (IPL)

IPL is a treatment that uses non-laser light to treat a variety of dermatologic concerns. It may also help with dry eye by improving tear stability and overall symptoms associated with meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

Despite its potential benefits, IPL may damage the eyes if you don’t wear proper eye protection during the procedure. Other possible complications include chronic light sensitivity and pain.

Thermal pulsation therapy

Thermal pulsation therapy involves applying targeted heat and pressure to your eyes to help reduce MGD-related inflammation that may be causing dry eye. There are currently two types of thermal pulsation therapy devices: iLux and Lipiflow.

A 2022 prospective study of iLux found that a reduction in dry eye symptoms was seen in as little as 1 week. A more recent review in 2024 on Lipiflow found mixed results, with the authors suggesting this device wasn’t any more effective in treating dry eye than other methods.

This is a relatively newer treatment overall, so more research is needed to determine the effectiveness and potential risks of these devices for dry eye syndrome. Discomfort during the procedure is possible.

Eye inserts

If your dry eyes don’t respond to artificial tears, a doctor may recommend hydroxypropyl cellulose eye inserts. Sold under the brand name Lacriset, these also supply artificial tears to your eyes. Unlike eye drops, though, the purpose is to provide continuous relief.

Lacriset eye inserts are sold as a prescription, and you must insert one each day to maintain symptom relief. Possible side effects include:

  • eyelid swelling
  • blurry vision
  • light sensitivity

Punctal occlusion

Punctal occlusion is a procedure that involves plugging your tear ducts with punctal plugs to prevent excessive loss of tears in your eyes. These may be temporary or permanent plugs.

While some people may see immediate relief in symptoms after punctal occlusion, others might experience more gradual relief. One downside to permanent plugs is the possibility that they may fall out of place or dislodge entirely. If this happens, it’s important to see an eye doctor.

Eyelid surgery

While not as common, doctors may consider eyelid tightening surgery for dry eye when other methods don’t work. The procedure involves tightening the skin in your upper or lower eyelids to help prevent tear loss. It’s thought to work by stimulating stem cells and introducing anti-inflammatory factors.

As with other surgeries, it can pose the risk of complications such as infections, bleeding, and scarring. Vision problems and loss of vision are other possibilities.

Radiofrequency (RF)

RF is a treatment that targets body tissues with electromagnetic waves. In the case of dry eye, RF may help by reducing inflammation, unblocking meibomian glands, and breaking up waxy buildup in the eye. In some cases, RF may also be combined with IPL treatment to help treat MGD.

While RF is considered safe, one small 2023 study involving 33 people who underwent RF and IPL for dry eye found that one person developed conjunctivitis after four treatments. However, the authors stated this was unlikely related to RF-IPL treatment. No other side effects were reported.

Amniotic membrane grafting (AMG)

AMG is a procedure that uses placental tissues as a means of reconstruction. Besides ocular purposes, AMG is used in a variety of disciplines, such as urology and dentistry.

In dry eye, AMG consists of creating an implant that’s placed over your eye. The purpose is to reduce dry eye symptoms and prevent damage to the cornea.

While medical professionals consider AMG safe for dry eye, some of the downsides to treatment include possible infections and possible breakdown of the implant.

Certain home remedies like warm compresses can help reduce dry eye symptoms. Additionally, you may consider the following at-home devices that may help.

Eye masks

Some doctors recommend using an eye mask (moisture goggles) in conjunction with medicated ointment to help seal in moisture for dry eye syndrome. People usually use this method at night and may heat it up like a compress.

One disadvantage to these masks and goggles is the cost and availability. They are generally more expensive and not as accessible compared with heated compresses, for example.

Humidifier

Dry air and wind can often aggravate dry eye syndrome. When you’re indoors, you can help reduce dry eye in your home or office with the help of a humidifier. These are especially helpful for the winter months when a heater may be running and making the air even drier.

Wrap-around glasses

Since you cannot control dry, windy, and cold conditions outdoors, you may be able to reduce the effects of the weather on your dry eye symptoms by wearing wrap-around glasses. Unlike traditional sunglasses, wrap-around glasses reduce the chances of wind drying out your eyes.

Common symptoms of dry eye include:

  • eye irritation, pain, and burning sensations
  • grittiness, or a feeling like something is stuck in your eye
  • redness
  • excess tear production
  • stringy mucus around your eyes
  • blurry vision
  • sensitivity to light

It’s natural for your eyes to make fewer tears as you get older. Females may be especially susceptible, as hormonal changes during menopause may increase the risk of dry eye.

If your symptoms don’t improve with over-the-counter artificial tears or at-home devices for dry eye, consider speaking with a doctor about medical treatments.

You may also consider contacting a doctor if you have a medical condition that may cause dry eye. Sometimes, addressing the underlying health condition may improve dry eye symptoms. Potential causes of dry eye include:

Researchers are continuing to develop new treatments for dry eye, including medications and medical procedures. It’s also important to check with any insurance provider you have to determine the cost of new treatments as they become available.

What is the latest treatment for dry eye syndrome?

Perfluorohexyloctane (Meibo) is the latest prescription solution approved by the FDA in May 2023. It’s designed to help prevent tear evaporation. Possible side effects include eye redness and blurry vision.

How much do punctal plugs cost for dry eyes?

Punctal plug insertion during a punctal occlusion procedure costs an average of $1,141. Your out-of-pocket cost depends on where you live, your provider, and whether you have insurance that covers this dry eye treatment.

Dry eye treatment is important to ensure your eyes stay lubricated. Not only does this improve symptoms, but treating dry eye also reduces your risk of complications like corneal damage.