closeup of eye drops bottle with pair of round glasses in the background

Eye Drops for Dry Eyes: Do They Really Work?

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Do your eyes feel dry and gritty, as if there is sand in them? Eye drops for dry eyes may help lubricate the surface of your eyes and relieve dryness and discomfort.

But eye drops for dry eyes don’t work equally well for everyone. Plus, a trip to your local drugstore can make you feel overwhelmed with all the different options out there. Over-the-counter or prescription eye drops? With preservatives or without?

In this post, we will talk about artificial tears and how they work. We will look at different types of eye drops to help you make an informed choice. Plus, we’ll discuss a few more natural alternatives.

Read on!

What Are Artificial Tears?

Much like natural tears, artificial tears or eye drops are used to keep the surface of your eyes moist. Your eyes can feel dry and irritated for many reasons including aging, eye surgery, dry and windy days, medication, pregnancy, fatigue, and more. Artificial tears promise to relieve dryness and soothe your eyes.

Some artificial tears also claim to protect the surface of your eyes and promote healing. And to decrease tear evaporation and excessive watering. But they may not always be the answer to dry eye, especially if its cause is an underlying disease such as thyroid or lupus.

Do Eye Drops Work?

Your eyes need proper lubrication to function well. Else they begin to feel dry, sensitive, and turn red. You may even complain of blurry vision and excessive tearing.

Eye drops may help relieve these symptoms. They act like natural tears. When you squeeze a drop in your eye, it lubricates the surface and reduces dryness.

closeup of blue eye

Closing your eyelids for some time helps spread the eye drops. Opening them again causes the drops and your own tears to reform. The solution is released with every blink and helps bring comfort to your eyes.

When the cause of dry eye is insufficient tear production or tear film imbalances, eye drops may provide relief.

However, eye drops don't address the underlying cause for dry eye or any nutritional deficiencies behind it. They only serve as a tear replacement.

Types of Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

There are two main types of eye drops for dry eyes: over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription. The best eye drops for dry eyes depends on what’s causing the dryness in the first place.

OTC Eye Drops

Over-the-counter eye drops can treat minor eye discomfort, such as dryness and itching. But be prepared for a bit of trial and error till you find the one that works best for you.

Most OTC eye drops contain lubricants that maintain moisture in your eye. They provide temporary relief from the stinging and burning symptoms of dry eye.

Prescription Eye Drops

If your dry eyes are caused by a chronic condition, such as ocular inflammation, your doctor may prescribe you eye drops. Prescription eye drops have a higher percentage of active ingredients.

These eyedrops don’t just relieve the uncomfortable symptoms of dry eye but try to treat its underlying cause. They may also be prescribed to those who can’t find relief from dry eye symptoms using OTC drops.

Preservatives and Preservative-Free Eye Drops

Artificial tears come with and without preservatives. Preservatives protect the solution from bacterial growth but may not always be ideal for use. Without preservatives, however, there’s a chance of an eye infection.

So, which one to choose? The best eye drops for you comes down to the number of drops squeezed daily.

Eye Drops with Preservatives

Eye drops with preservatives come in multi-use bottles. Once the seal is broken, the preservatives prevent bacterial growth, allowing you to use the artificial tears for longer. 

But the preservatives can irritate and sting your eyes and cause other symptoms. They may even make dry eye worse in the long run. For these reasons, eye drops with preservatives aren’t a go-to solution to dry eye.

Eye Drops Without Preservatives

Preservative-free eye drops come in single-dose bottles. These have fewer additives and are best if you have to use them more than four times a day.

But they are more expensive than drops with preservatives and do not last as long. They also come with a higher risk of bacterial contamination, which can make their long-term use problematic.

How to Use Artificial Tears Solution

Use artificial tears as prescribed by your doctor or instructed on the package. And make sure to not overuse them. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you.

  1. Wash your hands to avoid contamination.
  2. Next, make yourself comfortable and tilt your head slightly backward. 
  3. Pull down the lower eyelid to create a small pouch. Hold the dropper over the eye with its tip down.
  4. Now, look up but away from the dropper. Squeeze out one or two drops as needed. Close your eyes for a few minutes.
  5. Place your finger at the corner of your eye near the nose and gently press it. This will keep the solution from draining away from your eye. 
  6. Wait for at least ten minutes before applying any other eye drop prescribed by your doctor.

Side Effects of Eye Drops

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, eye drops are generally safe to use, especially if they are preservative-free. But stop using them if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watering of eyes
  • Temporarily blurred vision
  • Mild itching or stinging sensation
  • Eye pain and headache
  • Redness around the eyes
  • Unpleasant taste in your mouth

closeup of blurry and watery blue eye

Warning: Don’t use eye drops for red eyes to relieve dry eye symptoms. Eye drops for red eyes are decongestants that can make dry eye symptoms worse.

Eye Drops Alternatives

Although dry eye drops are most commonly used to treat dry eye, you can opt for other treatments, too. Alternative dry eye treatments may work for you better than artificial tears. Some of these include: 

  • Gels and ointments
  • Dietary supplements 
  • Oral medication
  • Punctal plugs
  • Warm compress
  • Eye therapy
  • Special contact lenses

Self-Care for Dry Eyes

While artificial tears may help relieve dry eye symptoms, that doesn’t mean you can’t come up with a more natural self-care routine for your eyes.

Remember to blink more often, especially if you work on a computer all day. This will spread the tear film more evenly over the surface of your eyes. And your eyes will feel less gritty and strained.

Always remove your eyeliner, mascara, and eye shadow before bedtime. Certain ingredients in your makeup can cause eye irritation and dryness. Also, don’t overwear your contact lenses.

If your eyes feel particularly dry on certain days, apply a warm compress. This will help soothe your eyes and ease any discomfort. You can also bring home a humidifier. It will add moisture to the air and make your eyes feel more relaxed.

Finally, don’t forget to add Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A and D, lutein, and zinc to your diet. Healthy eating ensures that your eyes get the nutrition they need. A simple way to feed your eyes the nutrients they need to stay healthy is to take an eye health supplement formulated to promote natural tears.

SightC from Sightsage is packed with superfoods, antioxidants, and naturally-occurring lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene which your eyes need to function well. Find out more about SightC.

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