People who suffer from dry eye often experience symptoms such as burning, itching and redness. Over-the-counter artificial tears may help relieve symptoms, but, for chronic sufferers, the discomfort and irritation return. This discomfort will often prompt people with dry eye to search for alternative treatments, such as aloe vera, a plant well-known for its soothing properties. Understanding the relationship between dry eye and aloe will help you determine if this plant may benefit your condition.
A tear film made of three layers coats the surface of your eye, and if any of these layers has a poor quality, you may experience dry eye. The layer closest to your eye's surface helps the tears spread evenly, the middle layer is the watery tears and the outer oily layer helps prevent the water layer from evaporating. Another cause of dry eye occurs when your eyes fail to produce an adequate amount of tears to coat, nourish and soothe your eye.
The leaves of the aloe plant contain a thick, gel-like substance that can help soothe burns, dry skin and other conditions. Aloe vera gel cannot improve your tear film or increase the amount of tears you produce. You should not place aloe vera gel directly in your eye since this may increase the discomfort and irritation on the surface of your eye. Some aloe vera products may also contain preservatives or other additives, and this may increase irritation, redness and other symptoms of dry eye.
Most doctors will recommend frequent use of artificial tears for dry eye. If artificial tears do not provide you with adequate relief, your doctor may recommend a prescription medication that will encourage tear production. She may also recommend an in-office procedure to insert punctal plugs into the opening of your tear duct. This will prevent your tears from draining, keeping them on the surface of your eye for a longer period of time.
If you feel that aloe vera could help your dry eye symptoms, you should talk with your doctor before applying the gel or other aloe vera solution. Your doctor may suggest applying a small amount at first, and this will help you determine how well the surface of your eye will tolerate the aloe. If you experience any adverse reactions to aloe vera near your eye, discontinue use immediately.