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What Is Eye Ointment for Dry Eye?

Eye ointment is a semi-solid, oil substance that can be used to treat dry eyes. It is a thicker form of eye drops that many patients use to relieve dry eye symptoms. Similar to eye drops, dry eye ointments can support your natural tears by providing temporary moisture. They can help soothe dry, irritated eyes. It’s important to note that ointments may blur your vision, which can make them ideal for nighttime use. 

Why Use Eye Ointment?

Eye ointment may be recommended by your eye doctor based on the cause of your dry eyes. Many people develop dry eyes because of issues with their tear film, which is made of 3 layers that help keep your eyes moist and protected. 

The layers of your tear film include: 

  • Mucin: The mucin layer helps tears stabilize and spread across the eye’s surface. 
  • Water: The water (aqueous) layer of your tear film helps protect your eyes from debris and other foreign bodies and helps hydrate your eyes. 
  • Oil: The oil layer, also known as the lipid layer, helps stop your tears from evaporating too quickly with oil created by your meibomian glands

When there are issues with your tear film, your body may not produce enough tears, or your tears may evaporate too quickly. An insufficient tear film may need support from eye ointment, especially if you suffer from dry, irritated eyes. 

Another reason your optometrist may recommend an ointment is due to a condition called lagophthalmos. Lagophthalmos is a medical condition characterized by the inability to fully close the eyelids. 

When a person has lagophthalmos, their eyelids do not come together properly when they close their eyes, leaving a gap or opening between the eyelids. This condition can affect one or both eyes and can vary in severity. It may be temporary or persistent, depending on the underlying cause. An ointment can act as a barrier to protect the portion of the eye that is exposed.

What’s the Difference Between Eye Drops & Eye Ointment?

You may notice both eye drops and ointments, but what’s the difference between these 2 options? 

Ointments are often thicker than eye drops and can sometimes provide longer-lasting relief, but they can slightly blur your vision as well. They are typically recommended for use when going to sleep, while eye drops may be recommended for when you need moisture throughout the day. 

How to Apply Eye Ointment

The most important thing about applying eye ointment is taking steps to protect your eyes from infection. Touching areas around your eyes can lead to complications if bacteria enters your eye, so it’s recommended to wash your hands thoroughly and avoid physical contact with the ointment tube while applying eye ointment. 

an illustration of someone applying eye ointment to their water line to treat dry eye

You can apply eye ointment effectively by following these steps: 

  • Wash your hands before you attempt to apply eye ointment.
  • Looking upward at the ceiling, tilt your head so excess ointment moves away from your nose. 
  • Hold the ointment tube close to your eye (approximately 1 inch away).
  • Pull your lower eyelid down to create an area to apply the ointment. 
  • Squeeze the ointment tube to place it near your eye. 
  • Let go of your eyelid while staring at the ceiling and close your eye to help the ointment spread and absorb. 
  • Wash your hands after applying the ointment to both eyes. 

What Is the Best Eye Ointment?

After examining your eyes, your optometrist can recommend the right eye ointment for your needs. Your eye doctor can determine the root cause of your dry eyes and create a customized treatment plan designed to support your individual eye health.

One of the recommended ointments from your doctor’s cabinet is I-Defence Ointment. It contains 0.40% sodium hyaluronate and provides a prolonged contact time with the tear film.  

product image of a tube of I-Defense lubricant eye ointment

Relieve Your Dry Eye Symptoms 

Your eye doctor can help identify if an ointment is recommended for your needs with a dry eye exam. Although dry eye symptoms can seem unavoidable, ointments can help keep your eyes hydrated and provide long-lasting relief. Find a nearby dry eye doctor to help determine the cause of your dry eye symptoms and begin your journey to comfortable vision.

June 25, 2023

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