In the United States, dry eye disease affects 6.8% of the adult population. It depends on how severe your dry eyes are. Over-the-counter eye drops may be a great option for people who have milder cases of dry eyes and are looking for something to help alleviate their symptoms.

What are the types of over the counter eye drops?

After our eye doctor conducts a thorough dry eye evaluation, they will be able to determine what brand of artificial tears are best for you. The two main types of artificial tears are preservative artificial tears and preservative free artificial tears.

  • Preservative free eye drops - If you are sensitive to preservatives, or if your doctor believes you will benefit more from a preservative-free alternative, you can expect to receive those eye drops in a vial rather than a bottle. In these vials, you twist the front open, pour one drop into each eye, and then throw it away after one use. There is a possibility that you may be sensitive to the preservatives in the bottle, so using a preservative-free product may be more beneficial to you. This is especially true for someone who is using eye drops for extended periods of time.
  • Drops with preservatives - Preservatives in eye drops prevent bacteria from growing, thus extending their shelf life. As a result, patients can use the bottle for an extended period of time without worrying about bacteria growing in the solution.

Are over the counter eye drops always effective for dry eyes? When should you consider prescription eye drops?

There are instances where patients may have more moderate to severe dry eyes, and standard over-the-counter artificial tears may not be sufficient to relieve their symptoms. In that case, your doctor may prescribe you prescription eye drops as well. Cequa, Xiidra, and Restasis are some of the prescription eye drops that are available. It's important to note that dry eye disease has an inflammatory component, and these drops contain cyclosporine or lifitegrast, which are medications that act against the inflammatory process that is impacting your tear film and tear ducts. By combating the inflammation Cequa, Xiidra, and Restasis are able to naturally increase tear production and reduce irritation caused by inflammation.  Therefore, these medications that your eye doctor prescribed will help alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes by addressing the inflammatory component.

Learn more about Xiidra vs Restasis.
Learn more about Cequa vs Restasis.

Are eye drops the best treatment for dry eye symptoms?

Dry eye disease is a multifactorial disease, which means that it is really important for the eye doctor to understand the cause of your symptoms in order to properly treat it. In most cases eye drops are only a temporary symptom relief but do not address the reasons why you have inflammation, poor tear quality, poor tear volume, or excessive tears. To determine the best course of treatment for you, be sure to get a thorough dry eye examination from our eye doctors today.

Visit a Dry Eye eye center at an Amplify EyeCare practice near you:


Contact Us To Amplify Your EyeCare