What Are The Best Eye Drops For Dry Eyes?

Eye drops are a very popular treatment for dry eye. But which eye drops are best for you?

What Are The Best Eye Drops For Dry Eyes? in Olympia

American Family Vision Clinic

Eye drops, also known as artificial tears, are a very common, and popular treatment for dry eye. However, not all eye drops are created equal. Some have more specific uses, and others work better for different people.

Eye Drops for Dry Eye

Eye drops help relieve dry eye symptoms by keeping the eyes moist and lubricated, though they aren’t designed to treat underlying causes of dry eye.

However, for dry eye caused by things like fatigue, or environmental factors, eye drops can be a great way to alleviate symptoms.

Eye drops are typically available over the counter, and are made with some of the same ingredients as natural tears, such as electrolytes, giving them better ability to protect the surface of your eyes.

However, there is additional information about common ingredients in eye drops, which anyone considering using them should be aware of.

Eye Drops for Dry Eye
Preservatives and Preservative-Free Eye Drops

Preservatives and Preservative-Free Eye Drops

Many eye drops contain preservatives meant to prevent bacteria growth in the liquid once it’s opened.

Common preservatives found in eye drop solutions include:

  • Ocupure
  • Polyquad
  • Benzalkonium chloride
  • Purite
  • Sodium perborate

For most people, these preservatives pose no problem. However, they may irritate some people's eyes, especially if they have severe dry eye. If you suffer from moderate or severe dry eye, and have to use dry eye multiple times per day, you might be better off with preservative-free drops (they will be labeled as such).

Preservatives and Preservative-Free Eye Drops

Lipid-Based Drops

This type of eye drop is designed for people suffering from evaporative dry eye, where the eyes get dry because the tears do not make enough oil or make low-quality oil, and thus evaporate too quickly.

Lipid-based eye drops are meant to help improve the tear film and keep your eyes moist.

Ingredients in lipid-based eye drops include 

  • Glycerin
  • Hydroxypropyl-guar
  • Mineral oil
  • Castor oil

Eye Drops You Should Avoid

Not all over the counter eye drops are artificial tears. There are some types of drops you should avoid unless a doctor recommends them to you.

Allergy Eye Drops: Eye drops meant to alleviate allergy symptoms are not meant for standard dry eye, and should not be used for that purpose. Examples of allergy eye drops include ketotifen fumarate and olopatadine hydrochloride.

Redness-Relieving Eye Drops: Redness-relieving drops are used to reduce eye redness caused by things like allergies, contact lenses, or smoke inhalation. If they are used too often, these drops can cause rebound redness, which makes the eyes even redder. These drops should only be used for red eyes and only for short periods of time. For many people ,preservative-free drops may be more helpful for reducing redness.

Redness-relieving drops can include naphazoline or tetrahydrozoline.

Antibiotic Eye Drops: Eye drops designed to treat eye infections are prescription-only, and should only be used for that purpose. Common antibiotic eye drops include azithromycin and tobramycin.

Eye Drops for Dry Eye
Preservatives and Preservative-Free Eye Drops

What Should I Do If I Wear Contacts?

Artificial tears can help relieve the dryness caused by wearing contact lenses. However, there are some things you should bear in mind.

Before using eye drops with contact lenses, make sure that you can safely use them while wearing contacts. Many types of eye drops are safe to use while wearing contacts, but some, with thicker formulas, may advise you to wait before inserting contacts after use. Be sure to carefully read the product label and instructions.

Rewetting drops can be a good option as well. They are specifically meant to make it more comfortable to wear your contact lenses. They will be labeled “for contact lenses”, and sold near contact lens solutions. When using, be sure to follow the instructions.

In all cases ,you should speak with your doctor if you’re thinking about using eye drops for contact lens discomfort. They will be better able to recommend what your should take, and can even recommend different types of lenses which may be more comfortable to wear.

Common Questions

There are various treatments used to help people who suffer from dry eyes. The type of treatment depends on the severity and type of dry eyes (aqueous or evaporative). One treatment option is to apply warm compresses 2x a day for 10 minutes over your eyes with lid massage and lid scrubs. Also using over the counter artificial tears 2-4x a day can reduce your dryness. If your dry eyes are more severe, you can also add a gel drop or ointment at night, and/or add prescription eye drops for dry eyes, such as Restasis or Xiidra. Dry eye is a multifactorial disease of the ocular surface, and one component that causes dry eyes is ocular surface inflammation and damage; so Xiidra and Restasis work by regulating the inflammatory processes in the eye that can affect tear production. Another treatment for dry eyes is to have your eye doctor insert punctal plugs in the inner corners of your eyes, which partially closes one of your tear ducts to allow your tears to stay longer on the front surface of your eyes and keep your eyes lubricated. There are also other in-office devices such as LipiFlow, iLUX, TearCare, Intense Pulsed Light, or Blephex that your eye doctor can use to treat your symptoms of dryness. Furthermore, changing your environment can also help reduce your dry eyes, such as adding a humidifier to your room or taking frequent breaks from your digital devices.
Depending on the severity of your dry eyes there are different eye drops we would recommend. If you have the milder version of dry eyes then over the counter artificial tears such as Systane Balance or Refresh Optive Artificial Tears may be sufficient enough to help relieve your symptoms of dry eyes. However, if you have more moderate/severe dry eyes a more viscous drop such as a gel drop or ointment may be more beneficial. In the event that over the counter eye drops are not providing much relief, there are other various prescription eye drops that your eye doctor can prescribe, such as Restasis or Cequa or Xiidra. Dry eye is a multifactorial disease of the ocular surface, and one component that causes dry eyes is ocular surface inflammation and damage; so Xiidra and Restasis/Cequa work by regulating the inflammatory processes in the eye that can affect tear production.
What Are The Best Eye Drops For Dry Eyes?
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Eye drops can be an effective way to treat dry eye symptoms. However, be aware of what type of eye drops you buy, so that you purchase a product that will be effective for your needs. If you have additional questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, 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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