Dry eye can be an occasional issue or chronic problem. There are a variety of causes, from Sjogren’s syndrome to allergies and antihistamines, to plain old chronic dry eye syndrome and old age. If you’ve been experiencing dry eyes make sure to check for any underlying conditions. In the meantime (and generally even after a proper diagnosis), over-the-counter artificial tears are often a great means of treating dry eyes.
Treating Dry Eyes with Artificial Tears
Artificial tears are available everywhere in your local pharmacy section. And therein lies the problem. Which ones should you choose? Essentially, the differences in most over the counter artificial tears are the ingredients and how thick the substance is-- the viscosity of the “tear.” The active ingredients target different conditions, while viscosity affects how long they last and how long post-application blurred vision will last.
All About Vision explains that low-viscosity eye drops are better for a quick fix, but they may not provide long-lasting relief. Overuse of these eye drops can cause additional problems but any resulting blurriness should go away quickly, so this relief is appropriate for situations like a long car trip. High viscosity eye drops are thicker and tend to provide your eye with more relief for a longer time. However, your vision is likely to be blurred for several minutes following application, which does not make for a good choice when driving down the road.
Eye drops can also result in a few different side effects. If your eye drops are relieving the dryness but causing photosensitivity (overly sensitive to light), this probably isn’t helpful. Other side effects include redness, itching, matted or sticky eyelashes, blurry vision, watery eyes, and swollen eyelids.
Choosing Your Eye Drops
It is important to talk to your ophthalmologist to figure out what kind of eye drops you need. All About Vision reports that “one brand might work better for aqueous-deficiency dry eyes, while another brand may be more effective for an evaporative dry eye condition.” Your eye doctor can also help you figure out how often you should use eye drops, if you can use different types for different situations, and if an OTC option is going to be sufficient for your needs.
When non-prescription eye drops aren’t working anymore or don’t provide the relief you’re looking for, it may be time for a prescription-strength option instead. Some specific things you need to know before you start trying eye drops include:
- Are you comfortable using eye drops with preservatives?
- Is your dry eye a result of poor quality tears, or
- Is your dry eye a result of insufficient tear film, or
- Is your dry eye a result of both?
- How severe is your dry eye?
Types of Dry Eye Drops
Some of the highest rated brands with a preservative-free selection include: Alcon, Bausch and Lomb’s Soothe, Bion Tears, Boiron Optique, GenTeal, NanoTears, Refresh Optive, Similasan, Systane, and TheraTears. Specific products with high ratings that may or may not be preservative-free include: Ocusoft Retaine MGD Complete Dry Eye Relief, TEARS Naturale Free (no preservatives), Similasan Irritated Eye Relief, blink Tears Lubricating Eye Drops (preservative free), and Refresh Tears Lubricant Eye Drops.
If you experience any adverse reactions to eye drops, stop use immediately and contact your doctor or eye doctor. Likewise, talk to your doctor about chronic dry eye before using eye drops for extended periods of time.