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Dry eyes: Don't live in fear of no more tears

Doctors for USA WEEKEND

Your coffee puts a little pep in your step, but could the contents of that extra-large cup keep your eyes healthy, too? According to a study published in the journal Ophthalmology, caffeine can significantly increase tear production, which could make it a treatment for dry eye syndrome.

Dry eye syndrome (DES) occurs when you either don’t make enough tears or produce the right quality of tears. For many people, DES just causes a stinging sensation and inflammation. But left untreated, it can damage the eye’s surface and impair vision. If you have DES, talk to your doctor about one of these remedies:

Artificial tears . For mild cases of dry eye, over-the-counter drops work. They come in two basic types: those with preservatives or those without. Drops with preservatives have a longer shelf life, but using them often could irritate your eyes, especially if you’re sensitive to the additives or your symptoms are more severe. If you need to use artificial tears more than every two hours, preservative-free brands may be better. Ask your doctor which drops are best for you.

Block tear ducts. It’s a way to help conserve your natural tears and make artificial tears last longer. Tears normally drain through small channels that stretch from the eye into the nose. Your doctor can close these ducts, either temporarily with tiny silicone or gel-like plugs or with a more permanent surgical procedure.

Rx solutions. Your doctor may prescribe eye drops that help to stimulate tear production or antibiotics to control inflammation. If your symptoms are significant and you can’t use artificial tears, he or she may also recommend ophthalmic inserts that release a substance to lubricate your eyes.  

Omega-3s. Research suggests these fatty acids help reduce inflammation. Omega-3s are found naturally in salmon and sardines, canola and soybean oil and walnuts; they also are available in supplements. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of adding omega-3s to your diet.

The Doctors is an Emmy-winning daytime TV show with pediatrician Jim Sears, OB-GYN Lisa Masterson, ER physician Travis Stork, plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon, health and wellness expert Jillian Michaels and psychologist Wendy Walsh. Check www.thedoctorstv.com for local listings.

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