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Types of Eye Drops and the Right Ones For Your Eyes

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When your eyes are red or otherwise bothersome, you probably reach for a bottle of eye drops. But depending on the reason for the eye irritation, the drops you have in your bathroom cabinet might be the wrong formula. Some could even further aggravate the issue. Always talk with an eye care professional first to make sure you are using the right eye drops for your condition.

Which eye drops are best for eye irritation?

There are several types of eye drops, including artificial tears, allergy relief, anti-redness, and rewetting drops for use with contacts. Some formulas of eye drops are a combination of those to address multiple issues, such as allergy & redness relief drops.

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears are eye drops designed to moisturize eyes by mimicking natural tears. These lubricating drops can provide relief for a wide range of eye irritation symptoms.

Eyes can become dry for many reasons, such as eye surgery, medications, medical conditions, environmental conditions like smoke, wind, or heat with low humidity, and simply aging. One of the most common causes is Dry Eye Disease.

Artificial tears are widely used to relieve symptoms of Dry Eye. They can address inadequate tear production or retention, as well as tear quality. Your optometrist can identify the type of Dry Eye and other factors that can affect tear film to recommend custom treatment options.

Eye Drop Ingredients

Eye drop ingredients vary by brand and formula. The primary active ingredients in most are ophthalmic demulcents and emollients. Demulcents soothe mucous membranes, provide lubrication to alleviate discomfort, aid in water retention, and decrease friction across the ocular surface caused by the eyelid. Emollients are fat or oil-based agents that increase the tear film’s lipid layer and minimize evaporation, sealing in existing moisture.

Other common ingredients in eye drops are:

  • Electrolytes foster healthy tear film and maintain, or lower, tear osmolarity (how much salt is in your tears.)
  • Preservatives discourage bacteria growth. But they also are known to irritate some eyes and some conditions, such as moderate to severe dry eye.

Preservative-free artificial tears have very few additives. They are more gentle on the eyes and can be used more frequently. These often come in single-use vials to retain sterility.

Some quality preservative-free artificial tears available over-the-counter are:

Systane Ultra
Longer-lasting protection; ideal for sensitive corneas

Refresh Optive
Dual-action lubricates and hydrates

Bausch + Lomb Soothe XP
Protection against tear loss and restoration of the lipid layer of tears

Anti-Redness Eye Drops

Anti-redness eye drops temporarily reduce redness by constricting the swollen blood vessels. There are many reasons the network of blood vessels in the whites of your eyes become swollen, sometimes causing a burning sensation. Allergies, eye strain, and fatigue are some of the common causes.

The drawback to redness-relieving eye drops is, with repeated use eyes become increasingly reliant on them. A majority of eye drops that cause vasoconstriction use decongestant ingredients, and risk rebound hyperemia (an excess of blood in the vessels.)

Visine Redness Relief Eye Drops
Quick fix for redness caused by a wide range of reasons

An exception to that is Bausch + Lomb’s Lumify eye drops. These use a low-dose brimonidine tartrate to lower eye pressure and contract blood vessels without decongestant ingredients. Most people can use these as needed, every 6-8 hours, without experiencing rebound hyperemia.

Bausch + Lomb Lumify Redness Reliever Eye Drops
Whitens without risking rebound hyperemia

Allergy Relief Eye Drops

Allergy relief eye drops are formulated to alleviate eye irritation caused by pollens, molds, pet dander, and other allergens. These fast-acting eye drops provide targeted relief for itchy eyes with an antihistamine (such as pheniramine, naphazoline, olopatadine or ketotifen) preventing the body’s release of histamines. If your eyes are stinging, itchy, or gritty, you may be suffering from eye allergies.

Bausch & Lomb Opcon-A Allergy Eye Drops
Combination antihistamine and redness reliever

Contacts Rewetting Drops

“Rewetting drops” are a special type of eye drops for contact lens wearers for the purpose of moisturizing and removing tiny particles. It is very important to select a formula specifically made for your type of contact lens. Using any other types of eye drops while wearing contacts risks damage to the lenses and eyes. It is generally safe to use other eye drops before you put in your contacts, giving ample time for absorption, though we recommend consulting your eye doctor first.

Clear Eyes Contact Lens Multi-Action Relief Eye Drops
Safe for contacts, free of pharmaceutical ingredients

Eye Drop Best Practices & Tips

Avoid touching the tip of the bottle to your eye, lashes, or skin, because it can compromise the product’s sterility.

Proper application of eye drops is more effective than excess volume. Apply only one drop at a time; using more will not improve results.

  • Lie down, or tilt your head back, and focus your eyes on the ceiling, not the bottle.
  • Lightly pull the skin under your lower eyelid, creating space below your eyeball.
  • Hover the bottle 1-2” above that are of your eye and squeeze one drop out.
  • Close the eye and gently press the inner corner of your eyelid, right next to your nose. That light pressure will prevent drainage by closing the tear duct.
  • Do not blink. Contrary to popular belief it won’t help spread the product across the eye and can reduce maximum absorption.

Selecting the right eye drops can make a difference and ensure safety. For Dry Eye relief and all other eye care needs, visit Gulf Coast Eye Insitute. We are here to help!

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Ready to request an appointment?  Make sure to choose the office location when submitting in order to more efficiently confirm the details.

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