Dry eyes can be a symptom of a variety of conditions. Being outside on a windy day or staring too long without blinking at your computer can dry out your eyes. You may also experience the discomfort of dry eyes due to a health problem or a new medication you’re using. When you find yourself dealing with the burning sensation of dry eyes, all you want is a little relief.
Fortunately, there are a variety of eye drops that can provide instant help. There are also some products you should probably avoid in favor of those that are safer and more effective. Before reading about the best drops for your eyes, take a moment to learn just what causes dry eyes and what you should look for in those soothing eye drops.
Your eyes become dry when your tears no longer provide enough moisture to keep them lubricated and comfortable. This might be due to insufficient tear production. A lack of moisture could also be related to the quality of your tears. Without enough moisture, the cornea can become irritated. The cornea is the clear covering of the front parts of the eye, which include the iris and pupil. Normally, your tears coat the cornea every time you blink, keeping it lubricated and healthy.
All kinds of biological and environmental conditions can lead to dry eyes. Women who are pregnant or receiving hormone replacement therapy often get dry eyes. Dry eyes can also be a side effect of some decongestants, antihistamines, and blood pressure medications. Wearing contact lenses may lead to dry eyes. If you have eye surgery, such as LASIK, you may also experience dry eyes in the weeks and months after the procedure. Eye strain caused by insufficient blinking can dry your eyes out quickly. Plenty of people who suffer from seasonal allergies can experience dry eyes.
There are many other causes, too. Diseases of the immune system, such as lupus, can cause dry eyes, as can diseases of the eyes or the skin around the eyelids. Dry eyes also tend to be more common as you get older. About 5 million Americans over the age of 50 have dry eyes, and most of them are women. Millions of other people of all ages experience dry eyes, too.
How to Decide
The best eye drops for you may depend on what’s drying your eyes out. Most over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops contain humectants (substances that help retain moisture), lubricants, and electrolytes, such as potassium. Prescription eye drops may also include medications to help treat chronic eye problems.
Cyclosporine (Restasis) is a prescription eye drop that treats inflammation that causes eye dryness. This type of inflammation usually stems from a condition known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, also called dry eye syndrome. The drops are usually used twice a day to help increase tear production. Cyclosporine is recommended for long-term use. Cyclosporine is only available as a prescription, and it can cause side effects.
OTC options for dry eyes are available in traditional eye drops, as well as gels and ointments. Gels and ointments tend to stay in the eyes longer, so they’re recommended for overnight use. Recommended gels include GenTeal Severe Dry Eye and Refresh Celluvisc.
Drops come in two forms: those with preservatives and those without. Preservatives are added to eye drops to help prevent the growth of bacteria. Some people find drops with preservatives irritating to their eyes. They’re generally not recommended for people with more serious eye dryness. Drops with preservatives include HypoTears, Moisture Eyes, and Computer Eye Drops.
Drops without preservatives are recommended for people with moderate or severe dry eyes. They are sometimes packaged in single-use containers. As you might expect, they are also more expensive. Some examples of no-preservative drops include Refresh, TheraTear, and Bion Tears.
If your eye dryness is the result of diminished oil layer in your tears, your doctor may recommend drops that contain oil. Rosacea in the eyelids, for example, can reduce your eye’s oil supply. Some effective eye drops with oil include Systane Balance, Sooth XP, and Refresh Optive Advanced.
The Bottom Line
Certain products temporarily take the red out of your eyes, but they don’t treat the causes of eye dryness. If your goal is to treat dry eyes, you may want to avoid drops that promise to remove redness, such as Visine and Clear Eyes.
In general, many causes of mild eye dryness can be treated with OTC eye drops, gels, and ointments. But as mentioned above, dry eyes can be the result of serious health problems. You should have your eye health evaluated annually. In addition to having your vision checked, tell your doctor if you experience dry eyes. Knowing the cause of the dryness will help you and your doctor make the best choice of eye drops and other treatments.
You don’t need to suffer with dryness. There are many products available, but getting the advice of a physician is the best step you can take toward more comfortable eyes.