Eye drops are popular over the counter and prescription medications that can treat a wide range of conditions from dry eyes, viral pink eye, to allergies and eye strain. If you don’t know how to relieve watery eyes, drops can also help. There are several varieties available. The most common types of drops used are anti-redness drops, allergy drops, rewetting drops for contact lens users, and lubricating drops. Generally speaking, these drops come with very few side effects and can be safely used on a regular basis. However, over the counter drops are not designed to replace treatment from an eye specialist. Many of the drops that we’ll go over are designed to treat common eye disorders such as redness and dry eyes. More serious conditions such as glaucoma, and dry eye syndrome, must be closely monitored by a healthcare professional in order to effectively manage the symptoms and prevent the conditions from worsening.
The right drops can help to get your symptoms under control, whether you’re dealing with excessive tearing, red eyes, mild discomfort, or dryness. There are several different brands of drops to choose from these days, each of which claims they offer the best, fastest-acting formula. Ultimately, it can take plenty of trial and error on your part to find drops that really work and can provide the type of relief you’re looking for.
I’ve done a lot of research over the past few months and reviewed several of the best drops of the market designed to treat redness and dryness. However, only six made it onto my list.
Table of Contents
Eye Drops Comparison Chart
|Lumify Redness Eye Drops
|TheraTears Eye Drops
|Sodium Carboxymethyl Cellulose
|Systane Balance Eye Drops
|GenTeal Eye Gel
|Refresh Optive Eye Drops
|Systane Ultra Eye Drops
Below, I’ll go over the six best eye drops for red eyes, dry eyes, eye allergies, contact lens wearers and more.
Best Eye Drops for Clear Eyes-Lumify Redness Reliever Eye Drops
These new drops by Lumify offer some advantages over older eye drop brands, however, they should still be used with caution since chronic redness can be an indication of a more serious disease. The active ingredient is brimonidine, which is an ingredient commonly found in drops that are prescribed to treat glaucoma. The active ingredient in competing drops is tetrahydrozoline. Both brimonidine and tetrahydrozoline are designed to decrease oxygen and blood flow from getting into the eye’s tissue. This is done by constricting the blood vessels in the eye.
How They Work
One of the biggest issues with competing brands that contain the active ingredient tetrahydrozoline is the fact that once you stop using the drops the blood vessels will no longer remain constricted. As the vessels open once more they tend to become much larger than they were before the drops were used. These enlarged arteries will pump even more blood to the area, which will lead to increased redness. This is referred to as the rebound effect and it can cause a never-ending cycle in which the user becomes reliant on the drops to reduce the redness.
The biggest difference between these drops and competing brands is the fact that they act on a receptor in the veins while competing drops target a receptor in the arteries of the eyes. The arteries work to provide blood that’s oxygen-rich to the eye, while the veins act as a vehicle to take blood away from the eye. Lumify drops will not interrupt oxygen flow to the eye since they target the veins. This will significantly reduce the user’s risk of the rebound effect.
Lumify Redness Reliever drops are designed to reduce redness instantly. According to the manufacturer, the drops can clear up redness in as little as a minute and work for a period of eight hours. These drops contain the active ingredient brimonidine, which specifically targets redness and areas of irritation only.
These drops are also FDA approved. The drops are dye and bleach-free, so you know they’re gentle enough for reapplication up to three times a day.
The drops were developed by eye specialists and have undergone several clinical safety trials. Lumify drops are different than your average over the counter drops designed to treat redness. With other brands, you can run the risk of developing rebound redness, which can occur with overuse, but these drops have been specifically formulated to eliminate this risk. They’ve also safe for contact lens wearers and people over the age of five. Basically, these drops are gentle, effective, and safe for everyday use.
These drops can be used to treat:
- General irritation
These are not lubricating drops so they’re not recommended for the treatment of dry eyes or blepharitis.
The drops should be stopped if your eye condition persists for more than three days, or you experience changes in vision, eye pain, or continued redness after application. The drops can be used once every eight hours. If you wear contacts they must be removed prior to application.
- Safe for use in children and adults
- Treats areas of redness only
- Can be used up to three times a day
- Specifically formulated to prevent rebound redness
- Can only treat redness
Lumify drops are safe, effective, and can be used up to three times a day. The gentle formula is safe for use in both children and adults. The fact that the drops were developed by eye care specialists and have been specifically formulated to prevent rebound redness is just one of the reasons they should be your go-to treatment if you’re suffering from redness and general irritation.
Best Eye Drops for Dry Tired Eyes-TheraTears Eye Drops for Dry Eyes
TheraTears are advertised for use in dry eye therapy. The manufacturer claims these drops can provide long-lasting, instant relief of many dry eye symptoms. The active ingredient is sodium carboxymethyl cellulose. This ingredient is usually sourced from cotton linter or softwood pulp and works as a sort of viscosity modifier, stabilizer, and thickener. It’s an ideal lubricant thanks to its hypoallergenic and non-toxic formula.
The other ingredients in these drops work as pH balancers and maintain the neutral acidity level that’s found in natural tears.
How They Work
These drops are designed to relieve dryness of the eyes and also work as a protection against further irritation. They can provide instant, temporary relief of the following symptoms:
They contain a preserving ingredient that will turn into pure water and oxygen upon contact with the eyes. The water and oxygen work with the patented formula in order to provide instant relief. This means you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds: drops that cannot grow bacteria in the bottle and will last longer, and all without the type of irritation that traditional preservatives can cause in some people.
These drops will work for people suffering from mild to moderate dry eyes. They can be used as frequently as you need them. When applying the drops, only add one to two drops per eye. Adding too many drops to each eye can cause the solution to dry on the surrounding areas and leave behind a sticky residue. To avoid this, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Contains patented preserving ingredient that will turn into pure water and oxygen on eye contact
- Can restore the natural pH balance
- Electrolyte and hypotonic formula replicates natural tears
- Provides instant relief
- May leave residue behind on eyelashes and surrounding areas
If you need immediate relief from dry eye symptoms, but you don’t want to deal with the additional irritation that can come with using drops that contain preservatives, then these drops by TheraTears can be the solution you’ve been looking for.
Best Eye Drops for Regular Use-Systane Balance Lubricant Eye Drops
Systane drops are used to relieve dry eyes symptoms that are caused by computer use, reading, sunlight, windy conditions, air conditioning, or certain medications.
Its main purpose is to keep the eye moist and to protect the eyes from infection and injury. The active ingredient is propylene glycol, which is a common active ingredient in lubricating eye drops.
Since these are lubricating drops, they can be used as often as need. If you find it hard to focus or your eyes feel increasingly uncomfortable, these drops can work to provide immediate relief.
Dry eyes can hit you when you least expect it. It can be caused by computer strain or even environmental factors. These drops should be used if your eyes feel dry, irritated, sore, or tender. Since this formula is similar to that of natural tears, you’ll experience immediate relief from common dry eyes symptoms. And that’s the beauty behind these drops. In fact, these drops may be even better than your natural tears, but why?
Their natural staying power. If you’re experiencing constant tearing caused by dry eyes, then these drops can work to keep your eyes moist for a longer period of time since they contain lipids that are soluble in organic compounds. Your natural tears will not be able to wash them away. Instead, the drops will coat the surface of the eye, providing the type of moisture they need to protect them against dirt, dust, and debris.
How They Work
Systane Balance works by restoring the tear’s natural lipid layer in order to provide long-lasting relief and treat dryness and irritation. According to the manufacturer, these clinical strength intensive therapy drops are designed to replenish the three layers of the tear film, which will minimize or completely eliminate the symptoms associated with dry eyes.
Tears are crucial to our vision and our eye health in general. Every time a person blinks, the protective coating of tears will spread all over the surface of the eye. When we don’t blink as often as we should, dry spots begin to develop, which can cause dry eye symptoms such as dryness, burning, redness, and irritation.
Tears work by lubricating and protecting the eyes, and wash away foreign particles that can cause irritation, injury, or can lead to an infection. When we have a dry eye flare-up, it leaves our eyes vulnerable to infection and injury, which is where these drops come in. Not only can they provide immediate relief, but they’ll also protect your eyes when your natural tears cannot.
As I mentioned, the manufacturer claims that these drops can replenish the three layers of tear film which consists of:
- Lipid layer
- Water layer
- Mucin layer
Each of these layers will work together in order to maintain eye health. These lubricating drops can help to prevent excessive tearing that’s associated with dry eyes, allowing the eyes to produce the three layers of tear film that’s crucial to eye health.
The drops themselves consist of a blend of natural oils that are designed to treat dry eye symptoms and symptoms associated with Meibomian gland dysfunction. These natural oils will work together to repair and nourish the lipid layer of tears while also preventing tear evaporation and providing essential hydration to each layer of tear film.
- Designed to replenish the three layers of tear film
- Gentle on the eyes
- Can be used as needed
- Provides immediate relief of dry eye symptoms
- The drops can leave behind a sticky residue on the lashes if you don’t remove excess liquid after application
This type of triple action lubricant for the eyes has been clinically proven to relieve irritation, burning, and dryness. Systane did an excellent job of covering all the bases in terms of treatment and prevention. While competing drops can worsen your symptoms, these drops will prevent future tear evaporation, allowing your eyes to replenish their supply of natural tears, while also working to protect the eyes against foreign contaminants and help to prevent infection.
Best Gel for Dry Eye Treatment-GenTeal Lubricant Eye Gel
GenTeal provides a better treatment option for people suffering from moderate to severe dry eyes. Unlike drops, gels will stay in place for a much longer period of time, which can help to make treatment much more effective. However, one major drawback is the fact that the gel will cause blurry vision. Because of this, they are often only used right before bed. The main active ingredient is Hypromellose, which is a type of thick lubricant that’s designed to remain in place and will not wash away with excessive blinking.
This gel will treat symptoms associated with dry eyes, such as:
- Itchy eyes
- Blurry vision
- Gritty feeling
- Watery eyes
- Excessive tearing
- Light sensitivity
This gel should be applied right before bed in order to relieve the symptoms associated with dry eyes. They’re designed to moisturize the eyes and replace the loss of natural tears which are washed away by excessive tearing or the eye’s inability to produce enough tears. The gel will also help to provide protection against infection and injury caused by dirt, dust, and debris.
This gel should not be used while wearing contact lenses since it may contain a preservative that can cause contact lens discoloration. When you wake in the morning, wait at least fifteen minutes before applying contact lenses.
Applying the gel is similar to applying eye drops. You’ll begin by tilting your head back and pulling the lower lid down in order to create a pocket. The tube should be held pointing directly toward the pocket. Make sure when applying that you look up and away from the tip. Next, you’ll squeeze out a thin ribbon of the gel into your lower lid. Avoid touching the tip of the tube to the surface of your eye. Once the gel is applied, blink rapidly for one minute before closing your eyes. Use a tissue to remove any excess gel. When you open your eyes, they may be blurred for a short period of time.
- Single-dose treatment
- Remains on the surface of the eyes
- Perfect for people who experience excessive tearing with dry eyes flare-ups
- Provides immediate relief
- Will cause blurry vision
- Can only be used right before bed
If over the counter eye drops have failed to provide the type of relief you need if you’re currently dealing with dry eye flare-ups, then this overnight treatment may be just what you need to minimize or eliminate symptoms. The fact that the gel works by completely coating the surface of the eyes and remains in place as long as you’re asleep means the eyes will benefit more from this single treatment than they can from drops, especially if you’re currently experiencing excessive tearing. This is a great treatment option for those in need of a stronger dry eyes treatment and one that will work to minimize symptoms and provide relief while you’re sleeping.
Best Eye Drops After Lasik for Lubrication-Refresh Optive Lubricant Eye Drops
These drops by Refresh Optive are so powerful and effective they’re actually one of the leading drops recommended by eye specialists to use after Lasik surgery. These drops contain the active ingredient Carboxymethylcellulose Sodium.
They’re a great option for dry eye sufferers as well and can treat symptoms including:
These drops are also preservative-free, which makes them a good option for people who have experienced irritation in the past from eye drops that contain preservatives. These lubricating drops are as soothing as they sound. They work by providing long-lasting hydration in order to immediately provide relief of discomfort, irritation, and burning due to dryness or prolonged exposure to windy conditions, environmental irritants, or irritation and dryness caused by digital device use. Not only can they provide immediate relief, but they’re also recommended as a preventative treatment. This means, if you normally experience dry eye symptoms at the end of the day, after spending hours on the computer at work, apply these drops at the beginning of your workday and you can avoid eye irritation altogether.
These drops can be administered as needed and are packaged in single-serving tubes. This is a huge plus considering they’re preservative-free. The whole point of adding preservatives to eye drops is to not only extend their shelf life but to also prevent the growth of bacteria in traditional eye drop bottles. Since these drops are packaged in single-serving tubes, bacteria growth is not even an issue. Additionally, the packaging makes them more convenient in homes where more than one family member is dealing with dry eye symptoms.
To use, you’ll apply one to two drops to each eye. The drops are designed to spread evenly over the surface of the eye to soothe symptoms related to dry eyes and to protect the eyes from foreign objects such as sand, dirt, and dust. If your dry eyes are due to a lack of proper tear production, then you may need to see an eye specialist for long-term treatment options.
- Provides immediate relief
- Recommended for post Lasik surgery treatment
- Can be used as needed
- Works to prevent eye irritation
- Not approved by the FDA
These powerful lubricating eye drops are recommended for the treatment of dry eyes and post-Lasik surgery aftercare. The fact that the drops are packaged in individual tubes is a huge selling point in homes with more than one eye drops user, and also helps to prevent the worry of bacteria growth in the eye drops, which is normally a concern in standard bottles. Overall, these drops have a high user rating for the fast-acting, effective formula that can provide relief instantly.
Best Eye Drops for Dry Eyes with No Preservatives-Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops Obnzxqa
If you’re looking for a more convenient way to use eye drops when you’re at work or on the go, Systane’s latest drops may be the answer. These are another type of best-selling lubricating drops from Systane’s extensive product line. These drops are packaged in vial form, since they’re preservative-free. As I’ve mentioned before, preservatives are added to drops to prevent the growth of bacteria. Since these drops are in disposable packaging, you won’t have to worry about bacteria growth at all.
Like other types of lubricating drops, these drops by Systane are very gentle and work to evenly coat the surface of the eye to protect the eyes from dust, debris, and other contaminants. The lubricating formula can provide instant relief from burning, stinging, irritation, and dryness. These drops are designed to treat mild symptoms linked to dry eyes and should not be used in place of professional medical treatment.
For use, you’ll apply one to two drops per eye. Since the drops will not negatively impact your vision, they can be used during the day or right before bed.
These drops can be used at the first sign of eye irritation or if you’re prone to dry eye symptoms caused by certain triggers such as computer use, they can be applied immediately before in order to prevent a flare-up.
If the drops do not help to relieve symptoms, or your symptoms persist for longer than three days, make an appointment with an eye specialist to rule out a serious condition.
- Single-dose packaging
- Can be used to prevent dry eye flare-ups
- Can be used as needed
- Not recommended for contact lens wearers
These lubricating drops by Systane are conveniently packaged for use on the go, are preservative-free, and feature a fast-acting formula that can provide immediate relief of dry eye symptoms. They’re safe and gentle enough to be used as needed, which means you can use them at the first signs of irritation or dryness. Overall, they’re are a great buy if you’re looking for a more gentle formula that won’t cause further irritation, thanks to the preservative-free formula.
Common Conditions and Disorders that Require Eye Drop Treatment
If you find yourself at your local pharmacy, you’ll notice right away that there’s no shortage of eye drops to choose from. Some stores will have over thirty different brands and types of drops that can treat a variety of conditions. But before we go over specific types of drops, let’s first look at the most common causes of eye irritation:
Dry eyes: The most common cause of redness, burning, and eye irritation.
Allergic pink eye: Inflammation and irritation caused by an allergic reaction.
Blepharitis: Irritation and inflammation caused by a blocked tear gland.
Viral pink eye: Conjunctiva inflammation caused by a viral infection.
Other, more serious conditions, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration require prescription drops to manage symptoms.
There are a variety of eye drops to choose from. Some are designed to specifically treat red eyes, or dry eyes, while others are meant to provide relief for eye allergies or contact lens users. There are also eye drops that are only available by prescription. These drops are usually prescribed to treat an infection or may be prescribed to relieve pain or dilate the eyes. Learning more about the different eye drops available can help you to choose a product that will ensure you get the relief you need.
When you have any type of eye irritation, you may have the urge to reach for some eye drops for some instant relief. But do eye drops really work or can they make matters worse? This can heavily depend on the type of eye drops you use and the underlying cause of the irritation.
People with dry eyes tend to rely on artificial tears to provide relief of symptoms such as dull pain, dryness, redness, irritation, and the feeling that there is some grit or a foreign object stuck in the eye. In general, eyes need moisture to protect them from environmental irritants such as dust and dirt. When the eyes lack moisture, a person will experience some level of discomfort such as dryness, redness, and sensitivity to light. Often, people will use these drops when their eyes fail to produce an adequate amount of moisture. These drops work by interacting with natural tears. When the eye drops are applied, once you close your eyes the drops will spread out over the surface of the eyes and work by lubricating and moistening the surface. Once you open your eyes the eyelids will cause the drops to mix with your natural tears, forming a new solution. This solution will be released each time you blink. This is how artificial tears work to provide instant relief.
As you can see, these drops aren’t meant to cure dry eye syndrome, but instead simply provide temporary relief. The drops should only be used temporarily and with caution. The underlying causes of dry eye include:
- An imbalance in tear production
- Increased tear evaporation
- Decreased tear production
In many cases, dry eye can become a chronic condition and can worsen if left untreated. Like any type of chronic condition, an exam and ongoing treatment are recommended.
Over the counter drops designed to treat dry eyes can provide instant relief and are powerful enough to soothe irritation. These drops can be useful if you’re dealing with temporary irritation due to windy conditions, bright light, or eye strain caused by fatigue or computer use.
Prescription drops used to treat dry eyes are much more powerful than their over the counter counterparts. Xiidra and Restasis are two prescription drops that can more effectively treat the symptoms associated with dry eyes. Cyclosporine is the active ingredient in Restasis, and it’s categorized as an immunosuppressant. These drops work by decreasing the inflammation in the lacrimal gland and in the eye in order to boost tear production. These drops are not fast-acting like most over the counter drops are. Instead, it can take up to three months for these drops to take effect and for the user to notice any type of improvement. Xiidra is a relatively new medication that works by blocking the proteins that exist on the surface of the cells located in the front of the eye. The build-up of protein can block tear production, which can result in an increase in dry eye symptoms.
However, the cost is a big issue with both of these prescriptions. If over the counter products are failing to provide relief, speak with your doctor to see if these prescription-strength drops can help to manage symptoms.
If you’ve been diagnosed with this condition, then you’re already aware that it can easily become chronic if you don’t stay on top of treatment. Fortunately, with the right drops, home treatment is effective.
Blepharitis can cause a variety of ocular symptoms such as photophobia, grittiness, itching, swelling, redness, discharge, and often contributes to dry eye syndrome. Aside from causing significant discomfort, the presence of blepharitis can also impact the outcomes of refractive and cataract surgery. The prevalence of blepharitis tends to increase with age, which is why researchers expect to see an increase in the number of cases within the next several years.
In mild cases, lubricating eye drops may be recommended. For moderate to severe inflammation, a doctor may prescribe steroid drops for short-term treatment. Antibiotic eye gels, ointments, or eye drops are recommended for blepharitis flare-ups that involve infections. Topical ointments, or antibiotic eye drops, can be applied to the edge of the eyelid one to three times a day. For people with severe blepharitis, oral antibiotics may also be necessary. To learn how to manage blepharitis, click here to read my article on how to get rid of blepharitis for good.
General Eye Irritation
General irritation, styes, and redness can make you look years older and can leave you feeling fatigued and uncomfortable. To treat red eyes many eye specialists recommend decongestant eye drops which are specifically designed to treat this issue. These drops work by shrinking the blood vessels on the sclera. As these blood vessels shrink they become much less prominent and minimize the appearance of redness. These drops are available over the counter and are clearly labeled as a treatment for red eyes and irritation. However, it’s important that you use these drops sparingly, since using them too often can worsen symptoms. These drops should only be used on a temporary basis. If the drops don’t provide relief, you may need to make an appointment with your physician since irritation and redness can be a sign of another medical problem.
When I say eye allergies I’m referring both to environmental allergies such as an allergic response to dust mites, pet dander, and cleaning products, in addition to seasonal allergies such as an allergic response to pollen.
When you have itchy, watery eyes due to an eye allergy, you’ll have several treatment options to choose from. You can take an oral medication that’s designed to provide allergy relief which may or may not help to minimize eye allergy symptoms. Or you can use eye drops that are specifically designed to treat symptoms linked to allergies. These drops usually have antihistamines which can provide relief within minutes.
For mild allergies, the over the counter drops tend to work the best. However, if you’re dealing with severe symptoms you may need to speak with your doctor about prescription-strength drops.
Histamines and Antihistamines
The eyes tend to react to allergens the same way that the nasal passages do, and that’s by releasing histamines in order to counter any foreign invaders. These histamines are what create your allergy symptoms. Drops that contain antihistamines can interrupt that response. But before you run out and buy the first antihistamine drops you come across, make sure you carefully read the label. Some of these drops will also contain decongestants, which will erase redness temporarily. Decongestant drops are not meant to be used for a long period of time.
If you’re struggling with severe allergies, adding an oral histamine can also help to minimize more serious symptoms.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drops are much stronger than the standard over the counter antihistamine drops and are often used for a short period of time for severe allergies. These drops are available by prescription only.
Mast cell stabilizers can help to prevent allergy symptoms before you’re hit with them during pollen season. Allergic cells, also known as mast cells are responsible for releasing the histamines that cause your allergy symptoms. Mast cell stabilizers will prevent the release of the histamines. These drops usually also contain antihistamines. Essentially, by using these drops you’ll be attacking the allergy in more ways than one.
As you can see, there are several options in terms of drops you can try to treat your allergy symptoms. But finding the best drops for eye allergies can take some trial and error on your part. Typically, most people will try one type of eye drop to see if it works before switching to a different type, instead of using a combination of drops to hit their allergies all at once. Your doctor may recommend a combination of drops to treat your allergies, which can either minimize your symptoms or prevent them altogether. If you’re dealing with a mild case of eye irritation during allergy season, then over the counter drops should be more than sufficient. However, if your allergies are so severe that they’re having an impact on your quality of life or negat
ively affecting your performance, then maybe it’s time to make an appointment with your eye specialist.
Pain Relieving Drops
Eye pain can be due to any number of things. The most common source of pain occurs after a surgical procedure, or an infection or eye injury. Eye pain and headache can also be a symptom of dry eyes or eye allergies. Your ophthalmologist may prescribe pain-relieving drops for healing and relief, in severe cases.
There are a few different types of pain-relieving drops:
- Local anesthetics
NSAIDs work by minimizing inflammation. These drops can be used when a person is healing from an infection, injury, or after a surgical procedure.
Corticosteroids reduce the substances in the body that cause inflammation and swelling. This type of pain-relieving drop can also be used when a person is recovering from an infection, injury, or surgical procedure.
Anesthetic eye drops are used to reduce or eliminate pain and can be administered right before, during, or after a procedure. Like the other two types of pain-relieving drops, these drops are only available by prescription.
These drops are available by prescription for a few important reasons:
When a person meets with their eye specialist for eye pain their doctor can accurately determine the root cause of the pain and can potentially save the patient’s sight if the cause is a serious condition such as glaucoma.
Some types of pain-relieving drops can cause further complications. As an example, they can cause infection or lead to problems with the surface of the eye. If they’re overused or not used properly they can cause further complications. A doctor can ensure you know the right way to use the drops and prescribe the appropriate amount of medication in order to prevent overuse. Additionally, prescribing these drops will allow a doctor to closely monitor their patient’s health for an appropriate amount of time. When dry eyes or allergies cause intense burning or stinging, some types of over the counter drops can help. For instance, drops that are preservative-free and work by lubricating the surface of the eye can be used as often as needed and can provide immediate relief from burning and stinging. However, other types of over the counter drops are designed to reduce redness and can cause further irritation if used too often.
Pain-relieving drops can come with certain side effects.
- Anesthetic drops can cause:
- Blurred vision
- Increased light sensitivity
- Increased tearing
- Increased pain
- Cause numbing in the nasal passages
Using these drops too often can lead to health problems.
NSAID drops are safe to use when applied as often as your physician prescribes. However, they do have some side effects, such as:
- Puffy eyelids
- Burning after application
Corticosteroids as also safe to use when applied correctly based on dosage size and frequency of use. However, these drops are not recommended for long-term use since they can cause some health problems. As an example, if used for a longer period of time than prescribed they can increase the pressure in the eyes which can lead to glaucoma. Long-term use can also lead to a possible eye infection or cataracts.
Pink eye can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or allergies. The most common form of pink eye is bacterial and it’s usually treated with antibiotic eye drops or ointments. The side effects linked to antibiotic eye drops include temporary burning or stinging of the eyes when the drops are first applied, and blurry vision after application. More serious side effects can occur such as pain and swelling, redness, and prolonged burning.
For allergic forms of pink eye, antihistamine eye drops will be used. These drops can help to reduce swelling and soothe general irritation. You can also try lubricating drops which can also provide some relief.
The viral form of pink eye doesn’t usually require antiviral treatments, however, the use of decongestant or antihistamine eye drops can provide some relief. Side effects linked to antihistamine drops include vomiting, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, and dry mouth.
Drops Used for Dilation
If you’ve made an appointment with your optometrist for an exam, your doctor may need to closely examine the back of the retina. For this type of exam, drops may be used to dilate the eyes. These drops do not cause any discomfort and are designed to cause the pupil to expand temporarily by relaxing certain muscles. When the pupil is not dilated, the view of the back of the eye is very limited. When the pupil is small the physician will be able to view the macula and optic nerve, however, their view is very limited. To see the entire retina the pupil is dilated with the use of these drops. Once applied, the drops can take twenty to thirty minutes until full dilation.
Once the drops have been applied you may be extra sensitive to sunlight temporarily until the effects wear off in approximately four to five hours. Because of this, you will need to wear sunglasses when going outdoors. You can also experience blurred vision or a tightening sensation in the eyelids.
So, what eye conditions are diagnosed with this type of eye exam?
Macular degeneration: Age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are both very common retinal diseases. Both conditions are monitored and diagnosed via a dilated eye exam and by viewing the retina.
Glaucoma: As I mentioned, the optic nerve can be seen through a pupil that’s not dilated, but for optimal viewing dilation is necessary. This is crucial in order to diagnose glaucoma, in addition to other optic nerve diseases.
Other eye disorders: In addition to glaucoma and macular degeneration, there are several other conditions that will require pupil dilation. This includes ocular tumors, retinal detachments, and retinal tears.
In some cases, these drops will also be prescribed for home use. If you’re wearing contact lenses, they must be removed before the drops are applied. To apply, tilt the head back and look up. Pull down the lower lid, holding the dropper over your eye. Look downward and keep the eyes closed for two minutes. Next, put one finger at the corner of your eye and use light pressure for two minutes. This prevents the drops from draining out. Do not blink or rub your eyes during this time.
If you’ve been prescribed another type of drops, wait five to ten minutes before applying.
Contact Lens Use
If you wear contact lenses you may experience irritation from time to time. Using rewetting drops can be helpful for this type of general irritation. The drops are specifically designed for contact lens wearers and won’t interfere with your vision or lenses. If you wear contact lenses you shouldn’t use any other type of drops, such as lubricating drops, unless instructed to do so by your eye care specialist.
If you’re not sure if the drops you have are safe to use while wearing your contacts, bring them with you to your doctor’s office.
If your physician has prescribed eye drops, then make sure you use them based on the instructions you’ve been given. In most cases, you will need to remove your contact lenses before using them and wait for ten to fifteen minutes before you put your contact lenses in.
If you’re currently using over the counter drops below you’ll find some general guidelines you should follow for eye health and contact lens safety:
Avoid using drops designed to treat eye redness. These drops contain vasoconstrictors. As I mentioned earlier the drops are designed to shrink the blood vessels in the eye in order to get rid of the redness. But these drops are not designed for contact lens wearers.
Most over the counter drops will fall into one of four categories: rewetting drops, drops for dry eyes, drops for eye allergies, and drops for redness.
Always follow the ten-minute rule for eye allergy drops. Most allergy drops are not designed to interact with contact lenses. Because of this, it’s important that you wait at least ten to fifteen minutes after applying the drops to put your lenses in.
Drops that are designed to treat dry eyes are not the same thing as rewetting drops. Many people tend to confuse the two. Drops for dry eyes work to lubricate the eyes, while rewetting drops lubricate the lenses. Many dry eye drops are very thick and contain oils, which can temporarily or permanently cloud up your lenses.
Read the instructions carefully for rewetting drops. Any drops that are designed for contact lens use will clearly state this on the label. These drops can be used as frequently as you need them since they’re designed to keep your contact lenses lubricated, making them more comfortable to wear for a longer period of time.
Contact Lenses and Dry Eyes
Did you know that soft contact lenses basically work like sponges and tend to soak up any type of preservatives in eye drops? This can actually cause damage to the eyes. Because of this, you have to be very careful regarding the types of drops you use.
Contact lenses may not even be a good option if you have dry eye syndrome because the lenses can further irritate the cornea. If you do have dry eyes, then lubricating drops may be necessary, but you’ll need to use certain precautions. The tear film, which lubricates the eye can be disrupted by contact lens use and can lead to a marked decrease in tear film stability, encouraging its evaporation instead. Contact lens use can even trigger issues in otherwise healthy eyes. So, if you already suffer from dry eye syndrome, wearing contacts can worsen the symptoms.
If you have dry eye syndrome, gel lenses may be the best solution. These lenses are tailor-made for people diagnosed with dry eyes. The lenses are made out of hydrogel and silicone and contain a reservoir of hyaluronan, which is dispensed each time the wearer blinks.
If you have dry eyes but you don’t want to change the type of lenses you use, you can use eye drops to stabilize the disrupted tear film. However, the type of lenses you wear can impact how the drops react. If you’re planning on using drops for dry eyes treatment, use drops that are preservative-free.
Do I Need to Change My Contact Lenses?
If you’re constantly dealing with discomfort, itching, dryness, and redness, when you wear your contacts, then it may be time for a change. Make an appointment with your doctor who can determine if you’re in need of a change. Disposable contact lenses are often more comfortable to wear than traditional lenses.
Eye strain is considered a fairly common eye disorder. It’s often associated with irritation, and a burning and scratchy feeling, which can be very uncomfortable. Eye strain is often attributed to certain medical conditions, windy or smoky environments, or computer use.
If you have dry eyes, then you’re familiar with artificial tears and how they can help. These tears will help to maintain moisture on the outer surface of the eyes. Lubricating eye drops can provide instant relief. These drops will provide moisture that can relieve many of the symptoms linked to eye strain. The drops will add many of the same elements that natural tears do. They’re often used to help treat dry eyes, which can result from the use of certain types of medications, environmental factors, aging, or even the weather. These drops are available without a prescription and may contain thickening agents which will help to keep the drops on the surface of the eyes longer.
These drops will fall into one of two categories:
- Preservative-free drops
- Drops with preservatives.
While lubricating drops are safe to use as often as you need to, you made need to limit use if the drops contain preservatives. These preservatives are added to prevent bacteria from growing inside the eye drops bottle once the bottle has been opened. But for some, these preservatives can be very irritating to the eyes. If you decide to use drops with preservatives, most eye care specialists recommend only using them up to four times a day. Drops that are preservative-free don’t contain as many additives and are recommended to people who use drops more than three to four times a day or for people with moderate to severe dry eye symptoms. These drops are usually packaged in single-dose vials since they don’t contain any chemicals that can prevent bacteria from growing.
There are several brands to choose from, just keep in mind that not all brands are created equal. You may need to try two or three different brands before you find one that will work for your eyes.
Drops After Lasik Surgery
After Lasik surgery, your physician will prescribe eye drops that can prevent dry eye symptoms. These drops are designed to keep the eyes moisturized and prevent redness, irritation, pain, and swelling. Unfortunately, post-surgery dry eye has become common, which is why most physicians now prescribe preservative-free drops immediately following the procedure. Following a procedure such as Lasik surgery, a drop in tear production has been noted. Additionally, corneal sensitivity can occur since the nerves are severed during the procedure.
Eye Drops for Glaucoma
Drops that are designed to specifically treat glaucoma patients work by helping to keep the pressure levels low in the eyes. These drops will maintain the desired level of pressure and ensure it remains consistent. Too much pressure in the eye can lead to severe pain and further complications. These drops are available only by prescription and should only be used as directed by your physician.
Many types of drops designed to treat glaucoma can cause mild to moderate irritation. However, patients are still advised to continue to use them and report any issues to their eye specialist. Some drops may even cause an allergic reaction. If the eyes become inflamed and swollen, treatment should be stopped immediately.
The drops used to treat glaucoma fall into a few different categories, depending on how they work.
Alpha agonist drops work by reducing the fluid production in the eye in order to improve the flow of the fluid as it leaves the eye. These drops are usually used three times a day. Some people may develop an allergic reaction to these drops over time, which will cause discharge, tenderness, and redness. This allergic reaction can develop over a period of several months.
Beta blockers work to reduce eye fluid production. They’re often used once every twelve hours. Possible side effects can include increased fatigue, dizziness, impotence, slow pulse, depression, breathing problems, and chest pain.
Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are designed to reduce the production of fluid in the eyes and are used twice daily. Side effects can include a bitter taste in the mouth, increased fatigue, discharge, and redness.
Cholinergic agonist drops improve the flow of the eye fluid out of the eye using the regular route. These drops are used every six hours.
Prostaglandin improves the flow of eye fluid as it leaves the eye, using a different route. The drops are used once a day, before bed. Side effects include pink eye, darkening of the iris, and eyelash growth.
Eye Drops Versus Eye Gels
Lubricating gels or ointments can be a better alternative if you’re dealing with a severe case of dry eyes. Gels are much thicker than eye drops, which means they will stay in your eyes for a longer period of time. However, they can also temporarily cause blurred vision, which is why most people will use them right before bed. But you won’t find eye gels sold in stores as commonly as eye drops. In fact, most are available by prescription only.
Can You Overuse Eye Drops?
There are many different types of eye drops to choose from, all of which promise instant relief. If you find yourself heavily relying on your drops for relief, you may be dealing with a more serious eye condition. Many people aren’t aware that they can overuse drops. Like with any other type of health problem, if your symptoms don’t improve within two to three days, or your symptoms worsen, stop self-treating and seek medical attention. Medical treatment is recommended if you use artificial tears or lubricating eye drops several times a day without relief.
Eye Drop Use Risks
Even over the counter eye drops contain many ingredients such as thickeners and preservatives. Over the course of several months, these ingredients can irritate the eyes. Contamination is another risk associated with long term eye drop use.
As I briefly touched on earlier, preservatives are used to prevent bacteria from growing in the eye drops bottle. They can also give your drops a longer shelf life. However, for some people, they can also cause irritation. If you use drops that contain preservatives then avoid using them more than four times a day. If your case of dry eyes is severe, then you may need to use them more often, in which case you should switch to drops that are preservative-free.
Avoid Contaminating the Drops
The most common way a person can get an infection from using over the counter drops is by touching the tip of the bottle to their lashes. This can instantly contaminate the bottle. Fortunately, many drops have preservatives in them to reduce the risk of an infection. This way, if bacteria makes its way into the bottle the preservatives will destroy it.
If you’re using preservative-free drops and the surface of the eye drop bottle comes into contact with another surface or even the surface of your eye it can become contaminated. Because of this, you need to be extra careful with your bottle of drops. The cap should be replaced immediately after use. When you apply the drops, you should also avoid touching the tip to the surface of the eye, especially if the drops you’re using are treating an infection.
Blurred and Cloudy Vision
Some drops will cause temporary cloudy vision after application. If this occurs, avoid using the drops prior to driving or operating heavy machinery.
Allergic reactions can occur. Fortunately, only roughly ten percent of drug reactions are allergic. An anaphylactic reaction to medication can include vomiting, dizziness, wheezing, swelling, and hives. If you experience any of these symptoms, avoid using the drops and seek medical attention.
How to Administer Eye Drops
Often, over the counter drops are a good choice if you have a mild case of redness or dry eyes, just as long as you pay close attention to the label and included directions.
Before you apply the drops, make sure you wash your hands. Avoid allowing the dropper to come into contact with any part of your eye. It’s very important that the tip of the bottle remain clean. If you’re adding more than one drop to each eye, or more than one type of eye drop, give it at least five minutes before you add more drops. This prevents the first drop from being washed away quickly by the next drop before it has had enough time to work.
- The drops can be administered lying down, sitting up, or while standing. Use your index finger and place it on the soft area right below your lower lid.
- Pull down the lid in order to form a pocket.
- As you’re about to apply a drop, make sure you’re looking up.
- Lightly squeeze the bottle and allow a single drop to fall.
- Avoid wiping your eye or blinking immediately.
- Close your eye and keep it closed for two to three minutes. Do not blink during this time.
- Blot your eye in order to remove any excess liquid.
What to Do if You’re Having Trouble Using the Drops
If you have hands that shake, try applying the drops from the side of the eye. In order to steady your hand, you can also rest it on the side of your face. If this doesn’t help, you can use a one-pound wrist weight. This type of extra weight on your wrist can help resolve any mild shaking.
If you’re unable to get the drops into your eyes try lying on your side and turning your head to the side. Next, close your eyes and place a drop on the inner corner of the eyelid right by the bridge of the nose. Open your eyes slowly in order to allow the drop to fall directly into the eye. If you’re unsure that the drop made it into your eye, add another drop. Excess liquid will run out of the eye since the eyelid is only able to hold a single drop at a time.
If you can’t comfortably grasp the bottle, since many of these bottles are very small, try wrapping a paper towel around it to improve your grip.
With over the counter drops, overuse can be easier than it seems. OTC drops have a high concentration of active ingredients and many users tend to use them more than what’s recommended. Because of this, overuse does happen. That being said, there aren’t any severe side effects associated with OTC eye drop use.
However, drops that treat redness act as vasoconstrictors. Overuse of these drops can result in dry eye syndrome, which is why it’s so important to stick to the recommended dosing instructions.
While rare, allergic reactions are possible. However, an allergic reaction with over the counter drops is unlikely. In most cases, when a severe reaction occurred it was linked to prescription drops used to treat glaucoma.
Yes, eye drops can be just what you need if you’re dealing with a little eye irritation or redness. However, it’s important to learn how to use them correctly before you run out and buy some, in order to avoid further irritation or an eye infection.
Eye drops can help if you have red, irritated, or dry eyes. But it’s very important that you choose the correct type of drops and use them the right way in order to get the relief you need and to prevent further complications.
In general, using certain drops over the long term is perfectly safe, just as long as you follow a few simple rules.
Treating the Right Symptoms
The first step is to determine what type of drops you need based on your symptoms. Many people with dry eye symptoms tend to opt for drops that are designed to eliminate redness instead of lubricating drops, which are what you would need to use to effectively eliminate many dry eyes symptoms. While mixing these drops won’t seriously damage the eyes, they can worsen dry eye symptoms. There are many different types of lubricating drops to choose from. Not all will work the same in terms of the results you’re looking for, but most will share similar active ingredients and contain a gentle lubricant as the base.
If you’re short on sleep, your eyes are a little irritated, and you just need drops to treat redness, then there’s a variety of products to choose from that will solely and specifically target redness.
Many of us will keep our over the counter medications way past the expiration date. If you’re using eye drops, make sure you pay close attention to the expiration date, which should be clearly listed on the bottom or side of the bottom. Despite the fact that many drops contain preservatives, they will still expire after twelve months. If you use them after the expiration date, they won’t harm your eyes, but they also won’t be nearly as effective as new drops. So, check the expiration date before applying, if you’re dealing with an already opened bottle and toss them if they’re expired.
Remembering to Use Your Dosage
Just like with any type of medication, using your drops as directed is important, especially if you’re using prescribed drops. Overusing drops or missing doses can negatively impact your treatment. If you’re having a hard time keeping track of dosages, try to time them based on your existing routine, such as when you take other prescribed medication or meal times. You can also set an alarm on your smartphone or tablet as a reminder.
You can also move your bottle of drops from one location to another after use. This can help if you have trouble remembering if you’ve taken your dose or not. As an example, leave the drops out on the kitchen counter before bed and place them in the medicine cabinet in the morning, after you’ve used them. This way, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you have taken the drops or not based on their location.
If you have a serious condition, such as glaucoma, and you can’t recall whether or not you’ve taken your drops, apply only one drop just to be safe. If you’re unsure if you’ve had your drops for the day and the eye pressure level is unstable or poorly controlled, then an extra drop is better than missing a dose. However, if you’re routinely forgetting your drops for the day, setting a reminder or having someone remind you, can be a huge help.
Use Medication on the Same Day as a Doctor’s Appointment
Make sure you always take your drops on the same day as your doctor’s appointment, unless your doctor requests otherwise. The whole point of the appointment is to determine whether or not the medication is effective. Most people worry about the drops interfering with the appointment, but in most cases, a doctor will want you to continue to take your medication as directed unless instructed otherwise.
If you’re experiencing symptoms you’ve never had before, such as discharge, pain, swelling, and chronic redness, don’t try to treat yourself. If you try over the counter drops and they don’t improve your symptoms after a day or two, then you should follow up with your doctor to ensure they can identify what’s going on. If you have more severe symptoms such as intense pain and vision loss, consult with your physician right away. Additionally, if you’re searching for answers to questions, such as “can a cold cause eye discharge?”, then you may be dealing with an upper respiratory infection, viral conjunctivitis, or something more serious. To learn more, click here to read my article on what causes eye discharge in babies.
Make an Appointment with Your Doctor If
- Redness and itchiness are present in one or both of your eyes. This can be a huge red flag for pink eye.
- Your eyes feel gritty or scratchy. You may be dealing with dry eye. If you have a mild case, lubricating drops may be enough. But if your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend you try prescription drops.
- Being outdoors in the sunlight causes intense eye pain. This can signal a more serious problem. However, it can also indicate severe dry eye or digital eye strain.
- You wake up with your eyelashes stuck together with dried discharge. This is a result of extra tear fluid building up during sleep. While a little discharge can be expected, if you notice a sudden increase in discharge, especially if it causes the lashes to stick together, then the odds are you’re dealing with something that needs treatment such as chronic blepharitis or an eye infection.
- It feels like something is stuck in your eye. Some conditions can cause a foreign body sensation, such as dry eyes or pink eye. However, you actually may have something stuck in your eyes. If a foreign object is lodged in the eyelid it can damage the cornea and cause severe irritation and pain. You may be able to remove the object on your own. Wash your hands prior to attempting to treat. Try flushing the foreign body out using a low stream of warm water from the showerhead or by pouring the water from a large drinking glass directly into the eye. If your attempt is unsuccessful, make an appointment with your doctor right away.
- Your vision becomes blurry. If you wake up one morning and you’re unable to see clearly, speak with your eye specialist and request an appointment. This may be a sign of a deep injury to the keratitis or cornea or it can be a symptom of a serious eye problem that can lead to permanent damage to your vision if it’s left untreated.
- If you’re experiencing severe eye irritation you will need to seek immediate medical treatment. Even if your eye irritation feels mild, if home treatment isn’t helpful or effective make an appointment with your physician.
Eye drops offer a myriad of health benefits. They can provide relief for dry, red eyes, eye allergies, and can help in the recovery process after a difficult eye procedure. They can also provide symptom relief from infections, and more. There’s a wide variety of options out there, and most people can easily pick out drops that will work for them from a range of different types and brands. Just keep in mind that the correct usage of these drops is crucial as failing to follow the included instructions can lead to other eye issues and can even leave your eyes more vulnerable to infection. If you’ve never used eye drops before and you’re experiencing symptoms such as swelling, pain, changes in vision, and discharge, make an appointment with your eye specialist immediately.
Over the counter drops are designed to treat mild conditions and should never be used in place of professional medical treatment. Eye drops, especially over the counter drops, can’t work miracles. If you’re dealing with a serious condition, then at best, all they can do is mask the symptoms and provide temporary relief. If you wear contact lenses and can’t get any relief from over the counter drops, make an appointment with your doctor. If you’ve used the drops based on the included instructions and your symptoms are getting worse, or if new symptoms appear, seek medical treatment. Never use the drops more often than directed, especially if they’re having no effect.
The preservatives in some drops can cause an increase in irritation. additionally, your doctor will want to examine you and ensure you’re not dealing with some type of infection. In some cases, prolonged use of drops is perfectly fine, but if you’re dealing with serious symptoms such as discharge and swelling, medical treatment is necessary. When you meet with your doctor, if you’ve been using drops, make sure you take them to your appointment or write down what brand and type they are. This information can help your doctor to determine if the drops were worsening your symptoms and what may be causing your symptoms in the first place.