Medications That Make My Dry Eye Worse
Last updated: November 2023
One of the toughest dilemmas I face with chronic dry eye is dealing with medication. Before I knew how serious my dry eye condition was, I didn’t think at all before I took a pill. If it made my eyes dry, I just accepted that and tried my best to ignore it.
Dry eye medication side effects
Now I know that this extra dryness from the medication is more than just a nuisance. It could be further damaging my corneas. This in turn makes all my dry eye symptoms worse, and that effect seems to persist for days. It’s sort of like being in a room that’s already dry, and then adding a fan blowing right in your face.
My experience with trazodone
Probably the worst offender for me has been a medication I started taking for insomnia: trazodone. I noticed after I started taking it, the next morning my eyes would be extremely dry and sticky, and my vision would be blurry for hours. If I just took it occasionally this effect was short lived. But when I started taking it nightly that extra dryness persisted.
My experience with hydroxyzine
Another one that affected my eyes a lot was hydroxyzine (or Vistaril). This was another medication my doctor prescribed for me for insomnia, and it definitely helped put me to sleep. Unfortunately I learned it has a long half-life, so I would have at least a full day of extreme dryness after taking this medication. I never took this one more than occasionally though.
My experience with cyclobenzaprine
More recently, the most frustrating discovery has been a medication called cyclobenzaprine (or Flexiril). It worked wonders for my back when I strained it a year ago, and my doctor was more than happy to prescribe it for as needed use. But it virtually stopped my tear production. I found this out after taking one at night and then having an appointment with my dry eye doctor the next day.
It’s definitely been a struggle, trying to balance my chronic dry eye with medications that help other ailments I deal with. Whether it’s allergies, acute and chronic pain, or sleepless nights, it seems like every medication is a double-edged sword. Take this pill and sleep better, but feel your eyes suffer for days later.
I’ve learned that every time I get a new medication, the first thing I need to do is read the list of side effects. If it says anything about dry eyes, blurry vision, or even dry mouth, I know that it’s going to be a problem for me.
Alternative dry eye treatments
Fortunately there are some choices. Even though many medications can worsen my chronic dry eye, there are sometimes alternative drugs that have less of a risk of causing extra dryness. Other antihistamines, for example, don’t seem to make my eyes any more dry. I haven’t touched a Benadryl in so long because I knew it was on that list that can cause extra dryness. But Zyrtec helps when I’m having allergy problems without drying out my eyes.
When it comes to sleep problems, I have found myself asking sometimes “is it worth it?” before taking a pill. Maybe I’m better off a cup of warm milk or chamomile tea. My meditation app and some light reading can help without giving me a day (or three) of extremely dry eyes.
I’ve also tried topical medications for aches and pains instead of pills. It’s easy to miss how effective a heating paid or ice pack can be, versus a pill that will affect my whole body.
I know that for many of us with chronic dry eye, we have other conditions that give us no choice. That’s the really hard part. If you need a certain medication for a disease and it’s going to dry your eyes out, what do you do? It’s such a frustrating catch 22. My hope is that in the future dry eye treatments will advance enough, or that medication alternatives will come along that don’t worsen chronic dry eye.
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