Are you dealing with eye dryness, infection, or another eye condition? Deciding between eye drops vs ointment can be tricky.

Both are convenient medications you can simply squeeze out of a tube. They stay on the surface of your eye, lubricating it and easing any discomfort.

But ointments remain in your eye for longer than eye drops. They also contain high-concentration solutions that are more powerful than eye drops.

That said, whether you should opt for eye ointment or eye drops depends on your specific eye condition and personal preference.

Read on to fully understand the similarities and differences between eye ointment vs drops. This will help you make informed decisions while navigating the aisles at your nearby pharmacy.

Ready? Let’s start.

Is Eye Ointment Better Than Drops?

Eye drops and ointments have many similarities. Both are topical forms of medication. They are easy to apply and can help treat eye conditions like dryness, irritation, and soreness.

But eye drops and ointments have their differences, too. Eye drops are liquid drops you can apply to the surface of your eyes. Ointments are medications in a greasy, semisolid form.

To apply eye drops, simply squeeze the dropper and let the drop settle in your eye. It will provide instant lubrication. Blinking your eyes will help spread the solution over the surface of your eyes.

To apply ointments, squeeze out a thin line of ointment over your lower eyelid. The ointment will break into tiny drops. These drops will hang out between your eyelid and eyeball for a while and give the medicine time to work.

closeup of human eye with lashes seen from the side

Eye drops generally contain drugs to treat various eye conditions. Sometimes, they have no medication and are meant to lubricate your eyes. Ointments, meanwhile, often have antibiotics and can fight eye infections.

You can use eye drops to ease eye issues such as dryness, irritation, eye allergies, and soreness. Ointments, too, can help treat dry eyes, infections, soreness, and inflammatory conditions.

But ointments can make your vision blurry. Eye drops may also cause blurriness, but this tends to be less severe.

That said, ointments remain in the eye for longer. They also have a superior solution and greater efficiency compared to eye drops.

The bottom line: Eye drops and eye ointments have the same uses and benefits. But while eye drops are easier to apply, eye ointments may be more effective.

Eye Drops Vs Ointment

Next, let’s take a closer look at the difference between eye drops vs ointments based on their types, uses, effectiveness, dosage, and other key factors.


There are three types of eye drops: artificial tears, allergy drops, and anti-redness drops. These come with or without preservatives. You can opt for over-the-counter drops or get them through a doctor’s prescription.

There are different types of eye ointments, too, such as antibiotic, steroidal, and lubricating ointments. Most eye ointments will require a doctor’s prescription. But you can buy mild ointments, like those for eye dryness, over the counter.


Eye drops and ointments generally have similar uses. They help lubricate the eye, reduce dry and sore eyes, and combat infections.

Here are some eye problems you can treat with eye drops:

  • Excessive watering
  • Itchiness
  • Sore and irritated eyes
  • Redness
  • Swelling and eye strain
  • Discharge
  • Pink eye
  • Infection
  • Minor eye injury
  • Allergies
  • Eye conditions like glaucoma

And here are some common eye conditions you can treat with eye ointments:

  • Eye infections
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye
  • Acute or long-term eye problems
  • Inflammatory conditions like stye, keratitis, endophthalmitis, and uveitis
  • Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Tender, red eye
  • Itchiness
  • Allergies
  • Bacterial or viral infections
  • Burning or stinging sensations
  • Mucus discharge
  • Eyestrain


Eye drops can provide instant relief for short-term dry eyes, though they don’t treat the underlying causes of the condition. They can also help ease digital eye strain, infections, eye soreness, and irritation.

closeup of human eye with redness in the white of the eye

Ointments are thicker than eye drops and stay in your eyes for longer. They are more effective than eye drops at treating eye issues. But ointments cause blurry vision, so it’s often best to apply them right before bedtime.


Both eye ointments and drops are prescribed for a specific time period. And you have to take them every few hours. But note that the dosage depends on the strength of the medicine.

If you miss your eye drop or ointment dose, make sure to use them as soon as you remember. Use the next dose at the regular time. Don’t double your medication dose to catch up.


For both eye drops and ointments, refer to the storage information on the package. If you’re still unsure, store at room temperature, away from moisture and sunlight.

Properly storing your eye drops and ointments will prevent spoilage and contamination. Plus, they will be safe to use the next time.


Sometimes you may experience side effects from eye drops and ointments. These side effects typically go away once you stop using the medication.

If you experience serious side effects like bad irritation in the eye, faintness, or difficulty breathing, contact your doctor immediately.

Here are some side-effects of eye drops you may experience:

  • Stinging sensations
  • Worsening redness
  • Blurry vision
  • Widened pupils
  • Eye pain
  • Swelling in or around your eye
  • Allergic reactions like rashes, swelling, dizziness, and trouble breathing

Some side-effects of eye ointments include:

  • Temporary blurring of the vision
  • Eye irritation, itching, burning, swelling, or redness
  • Painful or stinging sensations
  • Eye discharge
  • Red or scaly patches around eyelids
  • Skin rash
  • Swelling of the face
  • Hives
  • Chest tightness and difficulty breathing or swallowing

Important: Overusing eye drops and eye ointments can make dry eyes worse in the long term, especially if they contain preservatives. Eye drops are not equally effective for all patients with dry eye disease, according to a review article published in the BMJ Open Ophthalmology.

How to Administer: Eye Drops Vs Eye Ointment

Are you applying eye drops and eye ointments the right way? Since both have different consistencies, there are different ways to apply them.

Follow this step-by-step guide to safely apply eye drops.

  1. Wash your hands – You’ll have to touch your eye while applying eye drops. So, thoroughly wash your hands first.
  2. Shake the dropper – Gently shake the bottle to mix the contents well. Next, uncap the bottle and hold it over your eye.
  3. Tilt your head – Now, tilt your head back slightly. Look up and place the bottle above your eye.
  4. Pull down your eyelid – With your free index finger, pull your lower eyelid into a little pouch.
  5. Put in the drops – Squeeze the dropper to add one drop into the pouch. Make sure that the tip of the dropper does not touch your eye, eyelashes, or eyelid to avoid contamination.
  6. Release your finger  You can now release your index finger and close your eyes. Wipe away excess drops with a clean tissue. But do not dab at your eye directly.
  7. Finish up – Repeat the process for the other eye. Next, recap the dropper, store it well, and wash your hands again.

To apply eye ointments, follow these steps:

  1. Wash your hands – It’s important to maintain proper hygiene. Wash your hands with soap and water before getting started.
  2. Warm up the tube – You’ll also have to warm up the ointment tube. Close your hand around it until the ointment warms up.
  3. Tilt your head – Now, open the tube, tilt your head backward, and position the tube very close to your eye. But don’t let its tip touch your eye, eyelid, or lashes.
  4. Pull down your eyelid – Use your free hand to pull down the lower eyelid. The red part under your eyelid should form a pocket for the ointment.
  5. Squeeze the tube – Squeeze a thin line of ointment into the pocket under your eyelid. Then twist the tube to let the ointment break off from the tip.
  6. Close your eyes – Close your eyes for at least a minute for the ointment to spread to the rest of your eye.
  7. Finish up – Repeat in the other eye. Then clean the tip of the tube with a tissue to prevent the spread of germs. Finally, wash your hands, and you’re done.

Eye Drops and Ointment Care Tips

Whether you’re using eye drops or ointments, you need to keep a few things in mind. These include removing contact lenses, maintaining hygiene, and waiting between dosages.

woman sitting comfortably in armchair at home with window in the background

Follow these eye drops and ointment care tips to keep your eyes healthy and safe.

  • Be patient – While applying eye drops and ointments, don’t rush. Get in a comfortable position and apply them carefully.
  • Maintain hygiene – Washing your hands before applying eye drops and ointments is important. But that’s not all. Don’t share your eye medication with anyone. And store it away from moisture and sunlight.
  • Don’t use expired medication – Make a note of when you opened the bottle or tube. Discard it upon expiry.
  • Don’t mix the medication – When applying different eye drops and ointments, wait at least 5 minutes between each application.
  • Remove contact lenses – If you wear contacts, remove them before applying eye medication. Wait for half an hour before putting the lenses back.

Take the Dry Eye Test

Eye drops and eye ointments are two sides of the same coin. So, which one is right for you?

Ointments can be more potent than eye drops, but they can cause stinging sensations and blurry vision. On the other hand, you can use eye drops to treat mild eye problems. They are easy to use and fast-acting.

However, rather than buying eye drops or ointments over the counter, it’s best to consult with an eye doctor to determine which type of eye medication is best for you.

If you have dry eyes and other common symptoms of eye strain, lifestyle changes and natural treatments could help address both the symptoms and the causes behind the condition.

The first step is understanding your condition. Our quick online test can help you find out whether you may have dry eyes.

Take the Dry Eye Test.

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