Restasis is the brand name for cyclosporine A ophthalmic drops, used for chronic or severe dry eyes. Restasis is an anti-inflammatory medication that improves tear production that has been suppressed by chronic dry eye inflammation, called keratoconjunctivitis sicca. In clinical trials, 15 percent of patients had improved tear production while using Restasis, the Eye Digest reports. Restasis can take several months to be maximally effective. There are alternatives to Restasis that may be considered in conjunction with or in place of the medication.
Lubricating Eye Drops
Over-the-counter eye drops for dry eyes may provide adequate relief for many people. Ophthalmologist Joseph Mussoline, M.D., of Wills Eye Hospital states that today’s lubricating drops are specially formulated to treat mulitple dry eye causes, and that gels provide increased viscosity, allowing them to remain in contact with the surface of the eye for a longer time period. Trying different over-the-counter eye drops before using prescription medications like Restasis may be effective, he explains.
Punctal plugs are used to block the flow of tears from tear ducts, or puncta, and this can keep the eyes moist. Plugs can be placed in the upper or lower eyelids, or both. Blocking both the upper and lower ducts may cause excessive tearing, which may necessitate removal. Most silicone plugs extend past the top of the puncta and rest on the top of the eyelid, and they can cause corneal abrasions. Other types of plugs fit completely into the puncta and soften to conform to the exact shape of the puncta, the Eye Digest states. About 40 percent of plugs fall out spontaneously during the first three months of use. Ten percent of patients have discomfort and require plug removal.
Steroid Eye Drops
Eye drops that contain corticosteroids are often used to decrease inflammation rapidly. Steroid drops work much more quickly than Restasis. Artificial tears may be used in conjunction with steroid drops, Eye Update states. Steroid drops may also be used in conjunction with Restasis, to decrease inflammation before Restasis becomes effective. While long term steroid drop use can cause elevated intraocular pressure that can lead to glaucoma as well as cataract formation, a two to four month course is generally very safe, Eye Update explains.
Autologous Serum Tears
Severe dry eyes may respond well to tears made with a patient’s own blood, called autologous serum tears. Autologous serum tears are made from the clear part of the blood, the serum, and diluted with saline, the Eye Physicians of Lakewood explain. The solution is kept frozen in eyedroppers to be used as needed. The difficulty in using autologous tears may be in finding a practitioner to formulate them for you.