Can Chronic Dry Eye Be Cured?
Last updated: June 2023
Chronic dry eye (CDE) is a common condition, especially in older people. In CDE, the eyes either do not produce enough tears, or the tears are not of good quality. CDE can occur for a variety of reasons, including:1
- Certain medical conditions
- Environmental factors
- Other issues
Right now, there is no cure for CDE. However, there are treatments available to help you manage and reduce symptoms of the condition.
What is the goal of treatment?
The goal of treatment is to minimize dryness and discomfort while also keeping your eyes healthy. For most people with mild CDE, over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops can help. If you have more severe symptoms, you might need to try other treatment options.1
Some CDE treatments aim to manage the medical condition that is leading to dry eye. Other treatments work to address the cause of dry eye. Different treatments work to improve the quality of your tears or keep tears in your eyes longer.2
Potential treatments and current research
Researchers continue to study and develop better treatments for CDE. Several clinical trials are exploring prescription eye drops and other drugs to treat CDE symptoms and flare-ups.3
Researchers are also studying how wearable technology products may help treat CDE. Products like the TearCare System and the LipiFlow System deliver heat to the tiny oil glands (meibomian glands) lining the edges of the eyelids. The goal of these products is to clear the glands of any obstructions and encourage healthy meibum. Meibum helps to keep the tears in the eyes longer.3
Another clinical trial is evaluating a drug called TOP1630 in people with moderate to severe CDE. It is a type of drug known as a kinase inhibitor. It works by targeting proteins that are involved with inflammation in the eyes.3
Other research is focused on better understanding the underlying causes of CDE. In many cases, CDE is mainly caused by inflammation. However, some people with CDE do not experience inflammation. Scientists are trying to learn more about how inflammation affects the eyes and different ways to treat it.4
Scientists are also working on learning more about the 2 main types of CDE, aqueous tear-deficient dry eye and evaporative dry eye. Many people with moderate to severe CDE have both types. Understanding how both types begin and affect the eyes can help doctors better treat them and avoid side effects.4
General treatment options
Right now, the main treatments for CDE include:1
- Adding tears – Using OTC eye drops/tear solutions
- Conserving tears – Keeping tears in the eyes longer by blocking tear ducts
- Increasing tear production – Using prescription eye drops that can increase tear production or taking omega-3 fatty acid supplements
- Treating eyelid or ocular surface inflammation – Using prescription eye drops or ointments
Other procedures or treatments for CDE may include:2
- Closing the tear ducts to reduce tear loss
- Special contact lenses for people with dry eyes called scleral lenses or bandage lenses
- Unblocking the oil glands with warm compresses, eye massages, or thermal pulsation devices
- Light therapy and eyelid massage
There are also at-home and complementary remedies you can do to relieve symptoms of CDE. Regularly washing your eyelids and using OTC eye drops can help keep your eyes moisturized. Eye masks, drinking plenty of water, and taking frequent breaks from staring at screens may also help.2
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?