Eye Drops for Dry Eyes: Do They Really Work?

When you have dry eyes, eye drops may seem the go-to solution for quick relief. They’re readily available in pharmacies and online and you don’t usually need a prescription for them.

But artificial tears are not always the best way to treat dry eyes. They don’t address the underlying causes behind the condition and can make your symptoms worse over time. They may also contain preservatives and other chemicals your eyes don’t need.

Read on to find out more about the drawbacks of eye drops and discover a healthier alternative.

What Are Eye Drops?

Dry eyes are commonly caused by imbalances in the tear film or problems with the glands secreting tears. Environmental factors, certain diseases, or nutritional deficiencies are often to blame.

The tear film consists of an oily layer, a watery layer, and a mucus layer, all of which need to be in balance to keep your eyes lubricated and healthy.

Similar to natural tears, eye drops or artificial tears are formulated to contain water and electrolytes as well as some polymers. They have become the mainstay therapy for dry eye disease because they are widely available, relatively cheap, and don’t require a prescription.

Eye drops in small bottles that can be used multiple times usually contain preservatives, which are necessary to prevent bacteria from decreasing the product’s shelf life.

artificial tears falling from eye drops bottle

Do Eye Drops Work?

Eye drops or artificial tears may provide quick relief from dry eyes. But as the American Academy of Ophthalmology notes, eye drops with preservatives can irritate your eyes and worse the symptoms of dry eyes. The same is true for decongestants such as red-eye relievers.

Dry eye disease is a multifactorial condition that may have different root causes for different patients. Clinical research indicates that eye drops do not work for all patients. When dry eyes are associated with inflammation, underlying systemic diseases, Meibomian gland dysfunction, neuropathic ocular pain, or vitamin deficiencies, eye drops are unlikely to improve the condition.

In a survey of over 100 eye care providers, 86% said that artificial tears failed to treat 20% or more of their patients.

What’s more, any type of eye drop can have side effects such as blurriness and irritation and may cause mild to severe allergic reactions. This is true whether or not they contain preservatives.

Drawbacks of Eye Drops

Clinical evidence indicates you may want to think twice before using eye drops as a long-term strategy for treating dry eyes. Here are some of the factors you need to consider.

Eye Drops Often Contain Preservatives

Eye drops may include preservatives such as Benzalkonium chloride. These are needed to increase their shelf life. Without preservatives, manufacturers would not be able to pack artificial tears into a bottle you can use multiple times.

Clinical studies have associated preservatives in eye drops with worsening symptoms of dry eyes, reduced tear production, increased inflammation, and damage to cells in the cornea.

Animal studies found that preservatives in eye drops disrupted the tear film in rabbits and decreased corneal sensitivity in rats.

Long-term use of eye drops increases the risk for these problems. Some people may experience negative effects from short-term use as well.

Artificial Tears Are Not Real Tears

Eye drops often contain chemicals not found in natural tears, such as polyvinyl alcohol. While these can provide quick relief for dry eyes, side effects may include blurred vision, burning, and irritation.

Also, eye drops lack the biologically active components of natural tears. They may contain electrolytes and other compounds found in tears, but they don’t provide the same protective components.

Eye Drop Bottles May Cause Infections

Long-term use of eye drops increases the risk of eye contaminants that may cause vision problems and eye disease. When you apply eye drops, the tip of the bottle should not touch your eye or any other surface.

In practice, this can be challenging, especially for older individuals. Even when contamination leads only to irritation, it can be unpleasant.

closeup of human eye with lashes looking up

Eye Drops Can Cause Side Effects

Like all medication, eye drops can cause side effects. This is true across formulations, whether or not they contain preservatives.

The most common side effects of eye drops are blurry vision, redness, light sensitivity, irritation, sticky eyelashes, and tearing.

Eye Drops Are Not Always Practical

Suffering from severe dry eyes could mean having to apply eye drops more than four times a day. Using eye drops that often increases the risk that you may experience side effects from the preservatives and other chemicals they contain.

At the same time, it may not be practical as it may interfere with your everyday life or affect your ability to work. After applying eye drops, it’s not a good idea to drive, operate machinery, or perform activities that require sustained visual attention.

The bottom line: Over-the-counter eye drops are a temporary solution to treating dry eyes. Long-term use of eye drops may have side effects and possibly other negative effects on your vision and eye health.

What is more, they do not address the underlying causes responsible for dry eyes, such as other conditions or nutrient deficiencies. If you have to use eye drops, opt for preservative-free eye drops and consider alternative treatments.

What Are Your Alternatives?

Severe or chronic dry eyes may require eye inserts that can release lubricating substances, surgery to close the tear ducts, or eye therapies. It’s important to discuss all your options with your doctor and not simply put up with the long-term drawbacks of artificial tears.

Often, however, dry eyes come with mild to moderate symptoms which can be treated with more natural remedies that address underlying problems. If you suffer from dry eyes, you may want to consider a new approach and give your eyes the nutrients they need.

Vitamins A, C, D, E, and B Vitamins all play an important role in eye health. So do omega-3 fatty acids and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

Managing dry eyes in the long term can become easier with an eye health supplement using natural extracts from fruits and plants. These could help increase the availability of nutrients that are essential for the tear glands to produce enough lubricating tears, and for the different layers of the tear film to remain balanced.

Dry eye supplements are also easy to take. They can save you time while allowing you to focus on the activities that are important to you.

Depending on your diet and the amount of sunlight you get every day, you may also want to supplement your dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin D.

SightC: The Natural Solution to Better Eye Health

SightSage SightC Supplement Versus Eyedrops

SightC is an all-natural, carefully formulated full-spectrum vision health supplement informed by contemporary nutrition science and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

SightC brings together the power of goji berries with Cherokee rose, dandelion, Dwarf lilyturf, turmeric, Chinese yam, and hawthorn to provide antioxidants, phytonutrients, and naturally occurring lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. All of these are crucial to sustain the health of your eyes and maintain your vision.

Taking 1-2 capsules of SightC twice a day can help your eyes from the inside out, addressing some of the nutritional deficiencies that may be at the root of your dry eyes.

Try SightC to nourish your eyes and help them stay healthy for years to come.