Are Over the Counter Eye Drops Ideal for Dry Eye?

Eye drops are commonly used to treat dry eye symptoms. Are over-the-counter drops up to the task, or not?

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Eye drops are a common, simple way to deal with dry eye symptoms. And, of course, over-the-counter options are easier to get than prescription versions. Let’s take a look at whether they can be effective.

The Purpose of Eye Drops for Dry Eye

Eye drops used for dry eye are generally not designed to fix whatever the dry eye’s underlying cause is, rather to alleviate the symptoms. To achieve this, they contain substances which help the eyes retain moisture, lubricants, and electrolytes.

Differences From Prescription Eye Drops

A main difference between over-the-counter and prescription eye drops is that prescription drops can also include medication to treat chronic eye problems. For this reason, most prescription drops should not be used for standard dry eye.

The Purpose of Eye Drops for Dry Eye

Types of Over the Counter Eye Drops

There are two types of over-the-counter eye drops: those with preservatives, and those that are preservative free.

Drops With Preservatives

Eye drops which contain preservatives will have a longer shelf life, as the preservative chemicals prevent bacteria from growing. For a customer, this means the bottle can be used for an extended length of time without concern of anything growing in the solution.

However, the chemicals can cause irritation to worsen, if used too often. For this reason, doctors recommend you not use these drops more than four times daily.

Preservative-Free Eye Drops

Preservative-free drops more commonly come in single-use vials, to prevent contamination of an open bottle. Due to the lack of preservatives, you will need to purchase more of it. However, if you need to apply the drops more than four times a day, this is the better option.

Risks of Over-the-Counter Eye Drops

Preservatives: Potential risks from eye drops can include the potential irritation if drops with preservatives are used too often. Additionally, some people may be sensitive to an ingredient in the preservatives, also leading to eye irritation. For people with particularly sensitive eyes, preservative free drops may be the safer option. Always take care to check the label of the eye drops you purchase.

Contamination: If the tip of the eye drop bottle touches the eye or another surface, it can become contaminated. To avoid this, be very careful when handling and applying the bottle while it is open.

The Purpose of Eye Drops for Dry Eye

Side Effects

Eye drops can lead to side effects, such as cloudy vision just after the application. Generally speaking, you should avoid operating a vehicle or heavy machinery for several minutes following the application of eye drops. 

Allergic reactions can also occur in some cases, so be alert for signs of an allergic reaction following application.

Dr. Wernick cartoon

Summary

Over-the-counter eye drops can be a great option for alleviating symptoms of dry eye. However, it is still advisable to speak with an eye doctor prior to starting the use of eye drops. If you would like to make an appointment for a consultation, you can contact Amplify EyeCare Manhattan at (212) 752-6930.

Testimonials


  • At Amplify with Dr Wernick I was seeking help for seemingly intractable, probably age-related dryness. I've seen other doctors about it, and that has been helpful, but what he explained to me about it and the careful way he answered all my questions gave me so much more of a clear understanding of what is going on (and is not) that I am more able to implement all his and others' recommendations than I was before. And he gave me additional resources for further follow-up. I am most grateful.


    Cynthia Norton

  • Wow! This is a great Eye Care medical facility. I was thoroughly examined by Dr. Pinkhasov for over 2 hours. She made sure to check my eyes for pretty much everything and patiently explained proper care for my eyes. They definitely know how to provide great care and treat their patients right. Now I know why they have such a great reputation and been around for so long.


    Steve Fay

  • Dr. Kavner is a gifted diagnostician and orthoptic therapist. He treated me several decades ago for a condition similar to dyslexia. I was having migraines five times per week. I worked with him for about a year and I experienced tremendous improvement (down to 3-4 per year) that has lasted.


    Mary K.

  • Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!


    Peter G.

  • Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!


    Kinkie F.

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