Oftentimes, eye doctors will recommend over-the-counter eye drops for the treatment of Dry Eye Disease. Using non-prescription artificial tears can be highly effective in alleviating symptoms of dryness and irritation, but choosing the right eye drop can be confusing. Approaching the eye care aisle at the pharmacy or drug store can force you to face an overwhelming number of options. With the plethora of eye care products, from name-brand to generic, from ointments to redness relief, how can you be sure you are selecting the most appropriate product for you? Your optometrist will always have the answer to that question — if you are confused about which produce you should be choosing to treat your dry eye, contact your eye doctor’s office. We have also gathered a simple guide to frequently asked questions regarding over-the-counter eye care products.
Eye Wash vs. Eye Drops
Saline solution is a product that is commonly found among eye care merchandise. This liquid, which is a combination of water and sodium chloride, should not be used as a first-line treatment of Dry Eye Disease. Saline solution, sometimes generically labeled as “eye wash,” does not have any of the lubricating components required for the treatment of dry eyes. In fact, excessive use of saline solution can disrupt the eye’s natural tear film and result in an exacerbation of dry eye symptoms. Saline solution can be appropriately used in eye care for flushing irritants out of the eye. However, in the case of a potentially harmful irritant entering the eye, it is best to see your optometrist to ensure a saline wash is the best course of action.
Is Visine Harmful?
One very popular brand of eye drops is Visine, most commonly known for producing a redness-reducing eye drop. Visine works to decrease the size of ocular blood vessels in order to reduce the appearance of red and bloodshot eyes. However, these traditional redness-relief eye drops are not effective in improving the health of the ocular surface. Like saline solution, Visine does not contain the necessary ingredients to properly nourish and protect the cornea and prevent symptoms of dryness and irritation. Additionally, regular use of Visine carries the risk of “rebound redness,” in which the eyes become more bloodshot after the active ingredient of the drop wears off. The rebound redness can progressively worsen over time, resulting in chronically red eyes.
Gels, Ointments, and Drops
Lubricating artificial tears are commonly the first product recommended in treating dry eyes. Scattered among these products, you may also find ophthalmic gels and ointments that can be used to prevent symptoms of Dry Eye Disease. Gel eye drops are similar to artificial tears, but contain an active ingredient to increase viscosity, making them thicker than the average eye drop. Because of this increased thickness, gel drops are longer lasting and are frequently recommended for nighttime use. Similarly, ophthalmic ointments are specially formulated lubricants that are semi-solid and come in a tube. For severe cases of nighttime dryness, a small amount of these ointments can be inserted in the lower eyelid to protect the ocular surface. The drawback of these ophthalmic ointments is that their thick consistency causes very blurry vision, so these lubricants are rarely used during the daytime. If you are showing signs of nighttime dryness, your optometrist may recommend gel eye drops or an ophthalmic ointment.
Remember, if you find yourself overwhelmed when it comes time to purchase artificial tears, do not hesitate to contact your eye doctor. They will be able to provide specific recommendations tailored to your eyes.