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Suite 5A, Level 1, 1-17 Elsie Street

Burwood NSW 2134


(02) 8090 8010

Dry eyes

This condition can result from either your eyes producing less tears or having poor quality tears. Tears are not just water, they are made of a number substances including mucus, water and oil. The mucus helps the water to 'stick" to the eye.  The oil covers the water and stops it from evaporating.  If the oil film breaks down quickly then the water evaporates faster causing dryness.

It is difficult to list all the conditions that affect tears.  In a number of people the cause is unknown while in others conditions such as trauma, rheumatological diseases can cause dryness. The treatment is directed at the underlying condition where possible and at improving the quantity and quality of tears.
The quantity of tears can be improved by using artificial tears. These come with preservatives in bottles or without preservatives in minims (small plastic packs).  The drops with preservatives are usually prescribed upto 6 times a day, while those without can be used any number of times.  The latter are more expensive.  The amount of tears can also be increased by blocking the tear ducts that drain tears. These measures are often sufficient but there are rare cases where drugs such as cyclosporine eye drops or pilocarpine tablets can be used to help with dry eyes.  These however, require government approval.
The quality of tears is often improved by taking doxycycline, an antibiotic which is thought to affect matrix metalloproteases to improve the stability of the tear film.  These have to be taken daily for 30 days and are thought have a lasting effect for one year.  This tablet can cause stomach upset and therefore must be taken with food.  Women must not fall pregnant while taking the tablet and it may interfere with the oral contraceptive pill.  Doxycycline also must not be taken by young children.