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Artificial tears are the most common treatment for dry eyes. If they don’t relieve your symptoms, your eye doctor may put in plugs or do surgery to stop the draining and increase the tear film.
Artificial tears, or lubricating eyedrops, replace your natural lubricating tears. You can buy most lubricating eyedrops without a prescription. And you can use them as often as needed. Lubricating eyedrops are not the same as eyedrops used to relieve redness or itching. Check with a pharmacist to be sure you buy the right drops.
Note: Some lubricating eyedrops contain preservatives to make them last longer. If your eyes are sensitive to the drops, or if you need to use them often, you may want to buy lubricating eyedrops made without preservatives. Your eye doctor may also suggest using a lubricating eye ointment at night.
Your doctor may prescribe medication such as cyclosporine to treat your eye condition. It can help increase your eyes' ability to produce tears.
Closing the puncta with plugs can help keep the tear film on your eye. The plug acts like a stopper in a sink. It allows only a small amount of tears to drain out of your eye. Your eye doctor may first try temporary plugs that dissolve in a few days. If these help, he or she may then put in long-term plugs. Your eyes will be numbed with drops when the plugs are inserted, so you should feel no pain. And you shouldn’t feel the plugs once they’re in.
If artificial tears or plugs don’t relieve your dry eyes, your doctor may do minor outpatient surgery to narrow or block the openings to the drainage canals. If your dry eyes are caused by eyelid problems, your eye doctor may recommend other kinds of surgery.