Dry eye disease is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The first line of treatment for dry eye disease is usually artificial tears or eye drops. However, it's not uncommon for some people to report that their eyes feel worse after using eye drops. In this blog post, we'll explain why this can sometimes happen and share some helpful tips so that you can have a successful dry eye treatment.
There are many reasons why your eye drops may be causing more discomfort, such as:
Many people feel burning or irritation right after putting eyedrops in, and this is often because of the preservatives that are in those eye drops. Most of the newer eyedrops in the market have what is called a soft preservative, which is believed to not cause any damage to the ocular surface. However, many generics, over the counter drops, and older brands of eyedrops, including prescription medications, often have a preservative called benzalkonium chloride (BaK), which can cause damage to the ocular surface and even result in an allergy in some cases.
Another reason why eye drops can worsen dry eyes is the use of "get the red out" drops, which contain ingredients that can irritate the eyes and make dry eye worse. These types of drops usually have an ingredient called Tetrahydrozoline in them, which helps constrict the blood vessels on the surface of the eye, making them look more white. However, this ingredient tends to wear off and become less effective over time, leading to a rebound effect where the redness gets worse and the cycle continues.
It's also important to note that not all eyedrops are created equal, and it's crucial to choose the right type of eye drop for your specific needs. In some cases, using the wrong type of eye drop can make dry eye symptoms worse. For instance, if you have meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), a common cause of dry eye, using regular artificial tears might actually do more harm then good. The reason for this is that MGD causes your tears to not have enough lipids (oils), and using non lipid based drops will actually make your tear film even worse by further reducing the balance of oils in your tear film.
Furthermore, eye drops alone are not enough to treat the condition, and your condition left untreated may be getting progressively worse. Instead, you should look at eye drops as a band aid, which is good for short term relief (when using the right eye drops as instructed by your optometrist after a dry eye evaluation) and treatment such as heating and expression of the meibomian glands to properly treat MGD, one of the most common causes of dry eye.
The frequency of use and the amount of eye drops used can also affect the severity of dry eye symptoms. Our tear film is made up of a delicate balance of mucine, aqua, and lipid (oil) layers, overuse of eye drops changes our natural tear film which protects our eyes and vision. Overusing eye drops can lead to a rebound effect, where your eyes become even more dry, inflamed, and sensitive, leading to a vicious cycle. It's important to follow our eye doctor's recommendations and to not overuse eye drops.
Preservative free eye drops are definitely the recommended drops to prevent discomfort, however they do require proper storage and following instructions of your optometrist.
If you find that your eyes feel more uncomfortable after using eye drops frequently, schedule a dry eye evaluation with an optometrist near you.
To prevent your eyes from feeling worse after using eye drops, there are a few tips you can follow:
Don't let dry eye disease and the use of eye drops make your condition worse. If you're experiencing discomfort or irritation after using eye drops, it's crucial to seek the help of your optometrist. Your eye doctor can help you understand why eye drops can worsen dry eyes and provide you with the best solution for your specific needs.