Understanding OTC Eye Drops
If you have ever wandered through the eye care aisle of a drug store or pharmacy, you know there are thousands of products that are available without a prescription. Doctors can recommend many of these products to help treat eye conditions like dry eye disease, ocular allergies, or Meibomian gland dysfunction. Trying to decide which eye drop or product to choose can be a confusing process, so we are here to guide you through some of the common over-the-counter eye drops recommended by doctors.
Lubricating Artificial Tears
Artificial tears are the most common treatment for dry eye disease and can provide a huge amount of relief against symptoms like burning, grittiness, and irritation. With the hundreds of options available for lubricating eye drops, it can be difficult to know you are choosing the right one. If you are affected by Meibomian gland dysfunction, you may want to consider choosing a lipid-based eye drop. These are designed to help restore important nutrients to the tear film and can be very helpful for those who commonly experience watery or runny eyes. For those who wear contact lenses, specially made re-wetting lubricating drops can reduce irritation and dryness without causing any damage to the contact lenses. Gel eye drops are lubricating eye drops with a thicker consistency, making them long-lasting and great for people with moderate symptoms of dry eye disease. A commonly recommended option is preservative-free artificial tears, which come in single-dose vials and do not contain an additive or preservative. These gentle drops reduce irritation for people with preservative sensitivities or those who need to frequently use artificial tears. Your doctor can make specific recommendations for which type of eye drop is best for you.
OTC Eye Drops: Allergy Relief
Ocular allergies can be common in the spring months, leading to lots of red and itchy eyes. For most cases of mild or moderate ocular allergies, over the counter medications can be extremely effective. Looking for medications that advertise themselves as “anti-itch” is usually a good strategy. There are several different types of anti-itch options, so you will want to ensure that the drop you choose has an active ingredient such as ketotifen or olopatadine, as most doctors agree these medications are the most effective against symptoms of ocular allergies. Using normal lubricating eye drops in conjunction with allergy drops can also help improve the comfort of the eyes during the pollen-heavy months.
Avoid Redness Relievers
Many products advertise themselves as redness-relieving eye drops. Most of these medications are vasoconstrictors, meaning they reduce redness by constricting the blood vessels in the white portion of the eye. While this may be effective in making the eyes appear more bright and white, it does very little to treat the underlying cause of dryness or improve the health of the eye. Most redness-relieving eye drops result in “rebound redness,” meaning the eyes can become even more red than initially after the eye drop wears off. Instead of treating red eyes with redness-removers, make an appointment with your optometrist. They can help determine the underlying cause of the redness and can make recommendations to better treat your eyes.
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