Eye drops for dry eye

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.

Eye drops for dry eye in Olympia

American Family Vision Clinic

When Are Eye Drops Useful?

  • Dryness or a feeling of grittiness in the eyes
  • Redness
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Excessive tearing following very dry eye periods
  • Uncomfortable or stinging sensations
  • Eye fatigue
  • Difficulty with nighttime driving
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • A sensation of having something in the eyes
  • Stringy mucus in or around the eyes
  • Discomfort when reading, working on a computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, call us at (360) 491-2121 to schedule an evaluation with our optometrist.

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.

Eye Drops: Preservative and Non-Preservative Options

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. Our eye care clinic in Olympia can help you choose the best eye drops for your condition.

Eye Drops: Preservative and Non-Preservative Options
Lipid-Based Eye Drops

Lipid-Based Eye Drops

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.

Lipid-Based Eye Drops

Not a Catch-All Treatment

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.

Choosing the Right Eye Drops

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.

Eye Drops: Preservative and Non-Preservative Options
Lipid-Based Eye Drops

Use of Eye Drops for Contact Lens Wearers

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. At our eye care clinic in Olympia, we can guide you on the correct use of eye drops with 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 our eye doctors. We are always here to assist you. Just call us at (360) 491-2121 for expert advice and treatment options for dry eye syndrome.

Common Questions

Eye drops, often referred to as artificial tears, can help alleviate the symptoms of dry eye by lubricating the eye surface. However, they don't necessarily stop dry eye, which is often caused by underlying conditions that might need to be addressed. It's important that you consult with our eye care professional, perhaps at American Family Vision Clinic, to identify and manage the cause of your dry eye.
There are numerous eye drops available, including over-the-counter and prescription variants. Commonly used ones are lubricating eye drops, also known as artificial tears. They are generally safe, but depending on the specific brand or type, some might cause allergic reactions. Before starting any new medication, it's always wise to consult with our optometrist. Contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121 for professional advice.
Using eye drops daily for dry eyes is typically safe, particularly if they are artificial tears. However, if your symptoms persist or worsen, this might suggest an underlying condition. It is always wise to get an expert opinion. Don't hesitate to schedule a dry eye evaluation at American Family Vision Clinic.
The best medicine for dry eyes depends on the individual's specific symptoms and the underlying cause of the condition. Artificial tears, prescription eye drops, and anti-inflammatory medications are some of the treatments used. However, it is crucial to consult our eye doctor at American Family Vision Clinic to find the most effective treatment for your unique situation.
Reducing dry eyes naturally could involve adjustments to your environment and habits, such as avoiding dry, windy conditions, using a humidifier, taking regular screen breaks, and staying hydrated. However, it is essential to schedule a dry eye evaluation at American Family Vision Clinic if symptoms persist, to ensure you're getting the best possible care and advice.
Home tests for dry eye are limited in their accuracy and cannot replace a professional evaluation. Blinking and observing how long it takes for discomfort or blurriness to set in can be a basic test. However, if you suspect you have dry eyes, it's crucial to seek a professional diagnosis. Schedule a dry eye evaluation at American Family Vision Clinic for comprehensive assessment and treatment.
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


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 contact American Family Vision Clinic at (360) 491-2121. Patients with dry eyes visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye care for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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