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Dry Eyes in the Morning? Therapy for Relief

Waking up with dry, scratchy, or gritty eyes can be a frustrating start to your day. What’s worse, untreated dry eyes can cause vision loss and scarring. But don’t worry—therapies are available that can help provide relief and reduce the chance of this uncomfortable condition affecting your mornings.

Based on the results of your eye exam, your eye doctor can offer personalized treatments for dry eye disease. Treatments that can help provide morning dry eye relief include intense pulsed light therapy, eyelid debridement, meibomian gland expression, and punctal plugs. Knowing your options for dry eye relief can help you get eye care that supports your daily routine, even in the morning.

What Is Dry Eye?

Dry eye is a common condition caused by ocular surface inflammation and tear film instability.

The 3 most common causes of dry eye disease are:

  • Evaporative dry eye, which occurs when the tears your eyes produce evaporate too fast. Approximately 85% of all dry eye cases are due to evaporative dry eye.
  • Neurosensory dry eye, which is caused by changes in your brain pathways that can disrupt tear production and the surface of your eyes, leading to dry eyes.
  • Aqueous deficiency dry eye, which occurs when you don’t have enough tears to keep your eyes hydrated.

Every time you blink, you spread a tear film across your eyes. Your tear film is made of proteins and nutrients that nourish your eyes, and they also protect you from harmful debris that could damage your cornea, the transparent dome over the eye’s front.

Even though evaporative dry eye is the most common type, some factors can increase your risk of developing any kind of dry eye, including:

  • Age: As you get older, your eyes may produce fewer tears, leading to dry eyes.
  • Medications: Antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants are some of the medicines that can reduce tear production.
  • Environmental factors: Wind, smoke, and dry air can evaporate your tears or trigger eye allergies that may cause dry eyes.
  • Reduced blinking: Since blinking refreshes your tear film, you may experience dry eye symptoms if you’re not blinking enough, which can be one of the causes of dry eye related to digital eye strain.
  • Medical conditions: Medical conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus can reduce your tear production.
  • Sex: Gender may affect your risk of experiencing dry eyes.
  • Contact Lenses: Soft lenses can absorb moisture from your eyes and worsen dry eyes. However, some types of specialty contact lenses can help reduce dry eye symptoms for contact lens wearers.
  • Cosmetics: Eye makeup, lash extensions, eyeliner tattoo, eyelid surgery, and injection procedures can all increase your risk of developing dry eye.

Waking Up with Dry Eyes

We put our eyes through a lot every day. There’s dust, wind, digital screens, and many more factors that can affect your tear film. By the time you go to bed, your eyes have dealt with every drying factor you’ve met throughout the day.

Allergens are normally harmless substances that can cause an overreaction from your immune system. Eye allergies, which can lead to dry eyes, can also be worse at night. For example, if you keep your window open, you may be letting pollen allergens into your home as you sleep.

This is especially true for sleep because your bedding and pillowcases are soft and may collect allergens over time. Pollen, dust mites, and pet dander are all common allergens, and if you’re waking up with dry eyes, it may be because you’re sleeping in something that’s triggering your allergies.

The Dry Eye Spa

The right treatment for your dry eyes depends on the cause and severity. For example, you could treat mild dry eye symptoms with over-the-counter artificial tears that can moisturize your eyes. However, your optometrist may recommend more comprehensive dry eye spa treatments for long-term relief.

Treatments typically begin with an assessment to diagnose what exactly is causing your dry eyes. For many people, treating symptoms comes down to treating evaporative dry eye caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD).

Your meibomian glands line your eyelids and secrete an oil that helps prevent tears from evaporating too quickly. However, these glands can become inflamed or blocked. When this happens, you may be left with dry, burning, and irritated eyes that send you searching for relief.

Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy

If your meibomian glands can become blocked, surely there must be a way to unblock them. One of those methods is intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy. This form of treatment uses precise wavelengths of light to treat abnormal vessels, which can help clear away blockages causing MGD and dry eyes.

IPL treatments can be done directly at the eye spa while relaxing in a chair. The process is often quick, and you can go right back to your daily activities once it’s done. The results can be long-lasting and may appear after several treatments depending on your specific eye health.

BlephEx Eyelid Debridement

Over time, our eyes can be their own worst enemy as they attract bacteria and demodex mites. BlephEx is designed to remove biofilm that has slowly accumulated from the proteins in our tears and skin. Think of it like using a toothbrush to remove plaque from your teeth.

This procedure is called eyelid debridement and can help relieve dry eye symptoms by removing debris that can clog eyelid oil glands. The process takes 5-10 minutes, and can feel like your eyes are being tickled, though your eye doctor may use numbing drops to reduce the potential for uncomfortable symptoms. Once the device clears the biofilm, you should have eyes that feel refreshed and clean.

Thermal Meibomian Gland Expression

Using sustained heat at the ideal temperature, your eye doctor can break down the hardened lipids clogging your meibomian glands.

This treatment involves a device placed over your eyelids that gently warms them to liquefy the oil, followed by manual expression of your clogged oil glands. While IPL uses light, this procedure focuses on heat. The treatment we recommend is based on your eye condition and the results of an eye exam.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Studies have shown omega-3 fatty acids can help those with dry eyes. This nutrient comes mainly from fatty fish, but specially formulated supplements like De 3 Omega-3 can also help you get enough omega-3s to keep your tears healthy.

Punctal Plugs

Punctal plugs are tiny inserts placed into the tear duct opening. Their purpose is to slow the speed at which tears drain from your eyes. Their use is based on a simple concept: the more tears you have in your eyes, the more hydrated they are.

These plugs can be temporary and self-dissolving, or they can be semi-permanent and stay in place for years.

Seeing Your Mornings Clearly

You don’t have to keep waking up with dry eyes. One EyeCare is thrilled to help you in any way we can in our dry eye therapy spa. So if you’re tired of losing sleep to dry eyes, book an appointment with us today to get treatments that can help you find lasting relief!