Eye drops, also known as artificial tears, are a common, popular treatment for dry eye symptoms. They work by replenishing the moisture in the eyes, providing relief from discomfort and irritation often associated with dry eye syndrome.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, call your eye doctor to schedule an evaluation.
Eye drops also often contain essential electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and calcium. These components of your natural tears help lubricate the eyes and can promote a healthy eye surface.
Eye drops are an over-the-counter product meant to provide temporary relief from symptoms, and will not treat the underlying cause of your dry eye if there is one, such as meibomian gland dysfunction or blepharitis.
Many types of eye drops contain preservatives designed to protect the solution from bacteria once the bottle is opened. However, some people may experience irritation when using eye drops containing these preservatives, especially if they have severe dry eye. If you suffer from moderate to severe dry eye and use eye drops more than four times daily, you might benefit from a preservative-free option.
If you have evaporative dry eye, which is when there is a problem with the tear film as opposed to there simply not being enough tears in your eyes, lipid-based eye drops are a better choice, as it helps improve the quality of the tear film and keep the tears from evaporating too quickly. Types of ingredients in lipid-based eye drops include glycerin, hydroxypropyl-guar, mineral oil, and castor oil.
If your dry eye is aqueous-deficient dry eye, more standard eye drops should work fine.
Eye drops will not always be sufficient for alleviating your dry eye symptoms. In those cases, you can try other, stronger solutions, such as over the counter gels or ointments for dry eye. Since they are thicker than eye drops, their effects last longer, though they can make it a bit harder to see. For that reason, eye doctors often recommend using these products before going to bed.
While eye drops play a crucial role in managing dry eye syndrome, they may not always be enough to alleviate your symptoms completely. In such cases, your optometrist may recommend over-the-counter gels or ointments for dry eye. They are thicker than eye drops, last longer, and are often recommended for use before bedtime.
Specific types of eye drops you should avoid include:
Allergy eye drops: These eye drops are designed for providing relief from allergy symptoms when the eyes are exposed to allergens like mold, dust, or pollen. These drops are not meant to provide relief from dry eye symptoms. Although, artificial tears can help with symptoms of eye allergies.
Antibiotic eye drops: Antibiotic eye drops are meant for treating eye infections and are generally prescription-only, and may not provide proper relief from dry eye.
Redness-relieving eye drops: These eye drops are only meant for treating temporary eye redness, such as that caused by allergies, smoke irritation, or contact lenses. If these drops are used too often, however, they can cause rebound redness, which makes the eyes look even redder than before. For this reason, optometrists recommend only using these drops occasionally and for short periods. Eye drops which are preservative-free may be more helpful for reducing redness than regular use of redness-relieving drops.
Artificial tears can be beneficial for contact lens wearers who experience eye dryness. However, it's important to ensure that the drops you're using are compatible with your contact lenses.
First, make sure you can use the drops while wearing your contacts. In most cases it is safe to do so. However, some types, specifically the thicker formulations, will tell you to wait at least 15 minutes before inserting your contact lenses. Be sure to read the information on the product labels.
Rewetting drops are specifically designed to increase eye comfort while wearing contacts. They will be labeled “for contact lenses,” and are usually sold near contact lens cleaning solutions.
Remember, if you suspect a link between your contact lenses and dry eye symptoms, it's best to consult with your eye doctors.
Eye drops are a commonly used treatment for dry eye, and can be effective at providing relief from symptoms. As with any other medical eye care issue, however, it is advised you speak with a doctor before you start using eye drops for your dry eye. If you have any additional questions or wish to schedule a consultation, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.