Dry eye syndrome can cause various symptoms, including pain, stinging, and blurred vision. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as artificial tears and prescription eye drops can help manage symptoms.

Dry eye syndrome, characterized by insufficient tear production or poor-quality tears, is a common condition that affects many people. It can lead to various eye symptoms, such as burning, itching, and blurred vision.

There are several dry eye syndrome medications that can help manage symptoms and relieve discomfort. These medications can include OTC medications such as artificial tears that enhance tear production and prescription eye drops that treat inflammation.

The best medication option for you can depend on the symptoms you experience and your medical history.

Common types of medications for dry eye syndrome include:

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Artificial tears are an effective way to treat dry eye syndrome. These eye drops work by supplementing natural tears to provide moisture and lubrication to the surface of your eyes. This helps relieve discomfort caused by dryness.

While artificial tears can help relieve dry eye symptoms, they do not cure the underlying causes of dry eye syndrome.

These eye drops are available over the counter, and the dosage may depend on the product’s formulation and the severity of your symptoms. Mild cases require 4 applications per day, while severe cases may require using them every few hours between 10 to 12 times per day.


Artificial tears have several benefits when used as a dry eye syndrome medication, including:

  • immediate relief from dryness and irritation
  • can be used as often as needed, making them very versatile
  • available in preservative-free formulas for people with sensitive eyes

Although artificial tears are typically considered safe and effective for relieving dry eye symptoms, rare side effects may include eye irritation or allergic reactions. In some cases, frequent use of formulations with preservatives may cause irritation.

Side effects

Like with all medications, artificial tears may result in side effects, such as:

An allergic reaction to artificial tears can result in swelling, difficulty breathing, nausea, or dizziness. If you think you are having an allergic reaction to your eye drops, it’s important to stop use immediately and seek medical support.

Anti-inflammatory medications aim to provide symptom relief. They help reduce inflammation associated with dry eye syndrome, increase tear production, and improve the quality of tears. The medication can help provide immediate relief and long-term management of dry eye syndrome.

Anti-inflammatory medications for treating dry eye syndrome are mainly available as eye drops. They’re localized treatments, which can mean their effects on the rest of the body are minimal.

The dosage of anti-inflammatory eye drops may vary depending on the specific medication and your condition.

Common options include:

  • Cyclosporine (Restasis): This is the most commonly prescribed medication for dry eye syndrome. The typical dose is 1 drop in each eye twice daily.
  • Lifitegrast (Xiidra): Typically administered as 1 drop in each eye twice daily, approximately 12 hours apart.


Using anti-inflammatory medications for treating dry eye syndrome has several benefits, including:

  • targeting the underlying inflammation
  • improving tear quality and quantity
  • providing a long-term management solution for people with chronic dry eye syndrome

Side effects

While these medications are well-tolerated by most people, they do have some side effects. These may include:

  • eye irritation or discomfort around the application site
  • blurry vision shortly after use
  • watery eyes
  • altered taste sensation
  • an allergic reaction characterized by increased itching, redness, or swelling (in rare cases)

Corticosteroids work by reducing inflammation in the eye, decreasing discomfort, and helping to restore natural tear production to maintain a healthier tear film.

This type of medication is beneficial for people with moderate to severe symptoms and is usually considered when first-line treatments have not provided sufficient relief.

Corticosteroid eye drops are applied directly to the eye. The specific dosage and duration will depend on the severity of inflammation and the medication’s response. However, experts recommend short-term use to reduce the risk of complications such as glaucoma.

A healthcare professional may prescribe the following corticosteroids for dry eyes:


The benefits of using corticosteroids for treating dry eye syndrome include:

  • reducing eye inflammation and associated symptoms quickly
  • restoring the natural function of the eye’s tear film over time
  • enabling a better response to other dry eye treatments by reducing underlying inflammation

Side effects

Possible side effects of corticosteroids may include:

  • increased eye pressure, which is a risk factor for glaucoma
  • increased risk of cataracts with prolonged use
  • risk of infection due to the immune-suppressive nature of steroids
  • temporary blurry vision immediately after application

Natural remedies may be able to help with mild dry eye symptoms. Treatment options can include:

  • Warm compress: Applying a warm compress to the eyes can help unclog oil glands along the eyes (meibomian glands), improving tear quality.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids supplements: These supplements may improve dry eye symptoms by reducing inflammation and enhancing the eye’s oil film produced by the meibomian glands, which is essential for a healthy tear film.
  • Acupuncture: According to a 2019 study, stimulating certain acupuncture points can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, increasing tear production and decreasing inflammation which reduces symptoms of dry eye syndrome.
  • Air quality control: Using a humidifier in dry environments and avoiding smoke or pollutants can help reduce dry eye symptoms.

What are the main causes of dry eyes?

Some of the main causes of dry eyes are prolonged contact use and staring at a computer screen for a long time. Dry eyes can also be caused by underlying health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and thyroid disease.

What are the new treatments for dry eyes?

Miebo is a prescription eye drop and a new treatment for dry eyes. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2023 and aims to target the cause of dry eyes directly.

Another new treatment option is intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy, which seeks to improve tear quality and the function of the meibomian glands.

Can you cure dry eyes permanently?

Dry eyes cannot be cured permanently. However, it can be helpful to focus on management techniques such as limiting contact lens use where possible (if you do wear lenses) and using medications like eye drops.

Dry eye syndrome can significantly impact daily life, but various medications are available to help manage the condition. This can include OTC options such as artificial tears or prescription medications like corticosteroids.

Incorporating some lifestyle measures and home remedies, such as warm compresses, can also help relieve symptoms.

If your dry eye symptoms are severe or are worsening, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can help determine the most suitable treatment for you.