Eye drops, also known as artificial tears, are a common treatment for dry eye symptoms.
Eye drops, also known as artificial tears, are a common, popular treatment for dry eye symptoms. They work by helping to keep the eyes lubricated and moist, thus alleviating the irritation often associated with dry eye.
Not all eye drops are the same, however. Ingredients can vary, and for some patients a specific type of eye drops is recommended.
Eye drops are useful as relief from symptoms of dry eye, such as dry or irritated-feeling eyes. Dry eye has a wide variety of causes, but eye drops tend to be most useful for milder cases, where the dry eye is caused by things like a dry climate, fatigue, over wearing contact lenses for an extended period.
Eye drops also often contain electrolytes, essential minerals like potassium, sodium, and calcium. Potassium and sodium in particular, being part of your natural tears, help lubricate the eyes and can help the 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 that might grow once the bottle is opened.
Common preservatives in eye drop solutions include benzalkonium chloride, polyquad, ocupure, purite, and sodium perborate.
These are safe substances, and in most cases won’t cause any problems for the user. 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 have to use eye drops more than four times daily, you might be better served with a preservative-free option. Preservative-free eye drops will be labeled as such.
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, doctors often recommend using these products before going to bed.
Not all over-the-counter eye drops qualify as artificial tears. You should avoid using certain types of eye drops unless specifically recommended by a doctor.
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, doctors 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.
Many people find that artificial tears help treat the dryness caused by regular wearing of contact lenses. Before you do so, however, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
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.
In all cases, talk to your doctor if you suspect a link between your contact lenses and dry eye. The material used in contact lenses can help with symptoms, and certain types of contacts, such as daily disposable lenses, can also be helpful
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.