Non-Surgical Treatments

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Our ophthalmology team offers the most advanced treatments for all types of eye conditions. To find out more, please call your provider.

UCLA’s Stein Eye Institute specialists are available to provide a wide variety of non-surgical treatment options for eye disease. Our broad scope of expertise makes the Institute an especially good choice for those who have complex conditions or want a second opinion. 

Each entry includes a brief description of the condition and non-surgical treatment options available.

Allergies (Allergic Conjunctivitis) Treatment

In mild cases of allergic conjunctivitis, cool water poured over the face or cold eye compresses can constrict capillaries and relieve discomfort, and artificial tears eye drops can also be comforting. In more severe cases, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and antihistamines may be prescribed. Persistent allergic conjunctivitis may require topical steroid drops.

Antibiotic Eye Drops

For conditions like bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotic eye drops or ointments may be recommended for individuals who are immunocompromised, who are experiencing pain, who have significant eye discharge, or who are experiencing any combination of these factors.

Antibiotic Ointment

For conditions like bacterial conjunctivitis, antibiotic eye drops or ointments may be recommended for individuals who are immunocompromised, who are experiencing pain, who have significant eye discharge, or who are experiencing any combination of these factors.

Anti-CMV Drugs

The treatment for HIV-related eye problems depends upon the particular disease. Patients who maintain the health of their immune system through antiviral drug treatments are at lower risk of developing HIV-related eye diseases. Anti-cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV) drugs, such as Ganciclovir and Foscarnet, help to slow the progression of CMV retinitis.

Anti-Glare Eyeglasses

Anti-glare coatings on lenses help to diminish reflections off the surface of sunglasses and eyeglasses. By reducing glare and reflections, coated lenses help to reduce eyestrain. They also improve contrast sensitivity and visual acuity by allowing more light to pass through the lens. Coated lenses may also be beneficial for people who are bothered by glare from headlights, traffic signals, and streetlamps when driving at night.

Anti-VEGF Drugs

The chemical in the body that causes the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina is called vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. Treatments with anti-VEGF drugs for macular degeneration can reduce the growth of abnormal blood vessels, slow vision loss, and in some cases, even improve vision.

Antiviral Medications

Antiviral drugs are a class of medication used specifically for treating viral infections, such as ocular herpes.  Ocular herpes, which is caused by the type 1 herpes simplex virus, can be controlled with prompt treatment using antiviral medications, which stop the herpes virus from multiplying and destroying epithelial cells. Because herpes is a virus, antibiotics are not an effective treatment.

Artificial Tears

Over-the-counter artificial tear solutions can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tear production and to help alleviate symptoms of dry eye.

Artificial tears lubricate the eyes, which help to maintain moisture and relieve dry, scratchy eyes. Preservative-free artificial tear solutions are recommended because they contain fewer additives that could further irritate the eye.

Brighter Lighting (Computer Glare)

To help limit eyestrain from computer use, reduce the brightness of your computer screen or use a screen filter to reduce computer glare.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are prescribed to address common visual conditions, such as hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness), and presbyopia.

Customized specialty lenses can also visually rehabilitate conditions, such as keratoconus, corneal transplantations, corneal scarring, postrefractive surgery ectasia, ocular surface disease, and aphakia.

Specialty lenses include rigid gas permeable contact lenses, multifocal contact lenses, hybrid lenses, scleral lenses, custom soft lenses, soft lenses for irregular corneas, prosthetic soft lenses, pediatric aphakic lenses, and adult aphakic lenses.

Corticosteroid Eye drops (conjunctivitis)

Corticosteroid eye drops and ointments contain a combination of a steroid and one or more types of antibiotic for treatment of infection and inflammation of the eye. The steroid reduces inflammation while the antibiotic treats or prevents infection, which may be the cause of the infection.

Corticosteroid Ointment (conjunctivitis)

Corticosteroid eye drops and ointments contain a combination of a steroid and one or more types of antibiotic for treatment of infection and inflammation of the eye. The steroid reduces inflammation while the antibiotic treats or prevents infection, which may be the cause of the infection.

Eye Muscle Exercises (computer-related vision)

Eye exercises––such as regularly looking around at objects that are at different distances––may help limit eyestrain from computer use. A good eye muscle exercise follows the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.

Eye Patches (amblyopia, strabismus)

Eye patches may be a tool employed in the treatment of amblyopia or strabismus to help strengthen the eye muscles, improve focus, and stimulate the vision center of the brain.

By covering the favored (dominant) eye with an eye patch, the weaker, misaligned eye is exercised and strengthened, which ideally results in improved vision.


Wearing eyeglasses is an easy way to correct refractive errors and improve vision. Eyeglasses can correct near vision, intermediate vision, and far vision, as well as a multitude of other vision issues.

Eyelid Hygiene (conjunctivitis, blepharitis)

Maintaining a daily hygiene regimen––such as removing eye makeup every night––is important for keeping eyelids healthy. Eyelid hygiene, however, carries increased significance for patients with eye conditions like blepharitis and conjunctivitis, which can recur and spread.

For eye conditions like these, eyelid hygiene may include use of warm or comfortably hot eye compresses to help loosen and gently remove crusting around the eyelid. Crusting around the eyelid can also be removed by gently wiping the eyelashes from root to tip with cotton swabs dipped in sterilized water (water that has been boiled then cooled) or diluted baby shampoo.

To help keep eye conditions like blepharitis or conjunctivitis from worsening or spreading, good hygiene practice includes not rubbing infected eyes and not re-using compresses or cotton swabs.

Glaucoma Eye Drops

Glaucoma medication, in the form of eye drops or pills, is the most common early treatment for glaucoma. Medications work by lowering eye pressure, either by slowing the production of aqueous humor fluid or by improving the drainage of fluid from the eye.

Prior vision loss from glaucoma is not reversible with treatment or surgery.

Humidifiers (dry eye)

Use of a humidifier can help to reduce the symptoms of dry eye by adding moisture to the air.

Magnifying Aids (low vision)

For patients with low vision, magnifying aids ease the difficulty of performing daily tasks.

Hand-held magnifiers are ideal for reading menus, price tags, thermostats, or prescription bottles.

Stand magnifiers are helpful for reading books and magazines, as well as for some writing tasks. Spectacle magnifiers are designed for near viewing and are useful for reading menus, letters, books, and newspapers. They are especially helpful when both hands need to be free.

Prism Glasses (diplopia)

When the eyes do not work together in unison to create a single image, two images of a single object may be seen. Prism glasses can be useful in managing eye misalignments like double vision (ie, diplopia) by helping to re-align the two images into one.

Radiation Therapy (melanoma)

In radiation therapy, high-powered radiation is used to kill melanoma cells in the eye. The radiation may be delivered from outside the eye by a machine that directs a beam of radiation at the tumor. An alternative technique involves temporarily implanting a radioactive placque on the surface of the eye directly over the tumor.

Refraction for Glasses

Eyeglasses are a common and economical way to correct refractive errors, such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and blurry vision (astigmatism).

To compensate for the refractive error, prescription eyeglasses are fitted with specialized lenses selected for the specific needs of the wearer. Lens types include single vision––an all-purpose lens designed to correct distance vision, and multifocal lenses––designed to correct both near and far vision.

Variations of lenses include bifocals, which allow for reading with the bottom half of the lens and seeing at a distance with the top half of the lens; and trifocals (progressive), which are lenses with three different lens corrections––distance vision, intermediate vision, and near vision. 

Telescopes (low vision)

For patients with low vision, telescopic vision aids may ease the difficulty of performing daily tasks.

Telescopes can be used to view objects that are near, far away, and anywhere in between. They assist in watching television, working on a computer, and reading street signs. Telescopic aids can be monocular for one eye or binocular for both eyes.

Tinted Glasses (eye strain, dry eyes)

People with photophobia (or light sensitive eyes) may have difficulty with indoor lighting or sunlight to a degree that it may interfere with their ability to work indoors, enjoy the outdoors, or read from a computer screen.

Tinted glasses help to reduce light sensitivity by blocking bright reflective light and glare.

Vision Rehabilitation

For patients who have exhausted all medical and surgical options, vision rehabilitation can greatly improve quality of life by helping patients better utilize the vision they do have.

Through careful evaluation with a low-vision optometrist and training with the vision rehabilitation team, patients are provided with a specialized rehabilitation plan tailored to their individual needs, which may include use of low-vision devices, such as magnifiers, telescopes, and digital and computer technology.

Vitamin Supplements (macular degeneration)

Large studies have shown that vitamin supplements such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc lowered the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) progressing to advanced stages by at least 25 percent.

The vitamin supplements did not appear to help prevent AMD or help patients with mild forms of the disease, and had no effect on regaining lost sight. A healthy diet that includes leafy green vegetables and fish may provide the same benefits as supplements.

Eye Compresses (blepharitis, conjunctivitis)

In addition to contributing to good eyelid hygiene, eye compresses may help to relieve pain, relax muscle spasms, support wound healing, and assist with other problems that affect the eye, like blepharitis and conjunctivitis.

Warm to comfortably hot eye compresses, can help to loosen and gently remove crusting around the eyelid, and cold compresses may alleviate eye discomfort from allergies by constricting capillaries.

To create a “dry” warm compress, place a protective layer of fabric over the eye and lay a heating pad or hot water bottle on top of the fabric so that the heat source is not directly in contact with the skin.

To create a “wet” compress, soak a washcloth in warm or cold water, wring out the excess water, and place the moist washcloth over the eye.