Artificial tears are over-the-counter eye drops that are mainly used to moisturize the ocular surface. They are usually recommended for dry eye disease or even to help flush out irritants from our eyes. Patients often get overwhelmed and confused when deciding which one to buy because there are usually 20-30 different types that line the shelves at the pharmacy. Unfortunately, no single type of aritificial tears works best for everyone. Here are some tips to help narrow down your selection…
1. Does the eye drop contain preservatives?
If you need to use artificial tears more than 4 times/day, or are sensitive to preservatives, try looking for single dose preservative-free drops. There are also drops where the preservative turns into water or a non-toxic chemical when exposed to the air or tear film.
2. How thick is the eye drop?
For more severe dry eyes, viscous (thicker) drops are recommended. The effects of thicker eye drops last longer, therefore you won’t have to instill them as often. Be careful not to use them just before driving because they cause blurry vision for the first minute or so of use. These drops can range from a gel to thick ointment (usually recommended just before sleeping).
3. Does the eye drop contain a vasoconstrictor?
Drops that claim to “take the red out” of our eyes usually contain an ingredient called a vasoconstrictor. These make our blood vessels temporarily more narrow, making our eyes look more white. The problem is with prolonged use, it causes vascular fragility, rebound vasodilation and a dependence on the drop to maintain a white looking eye. Basically this means our blood vessel walls get weaker, and if we don’t use it, our eyes look even more red.
If you are wondering which eye drop works best for you, make sure you consult your eye care professional.
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