Skip to main content

Stay up to date on our COVID-19 pandemic protocols Read Now...

Home »

dry eyes

What Eye Drops Are Best For My Eyes?

Are you suffering from red, irritated and scratchy eyes? Do you feel like you have something stuck in your eyes? These are hallmark symptoms of dry eye syndrome, a condition that occurs when your eyes are not properly lubricated due to insufficient tear production, blocked glands, or unbalanced tear composition.

The symptoms can be so unpleasant that many rush to the nearest pharmacy to find the perfect eye drops that will offer them the relief they need so that they can get back to focusing on other things.

However, seeking the ideal artificial tears to relieve dry eyes can be a daunting process. The eye drops shelf at the drug store offers so many options that it’s hard to know which ones are right for you. What’s more, some can actually make your symptoms worse.

Not all eye drops are created equal—currently, there are 6 main categories of artificial tears available over the counter. Choosing the artificial tears based on your specific needs can help narrow your options.

The 6 Types of Eye Drops / Artificial Tears

Preserved Artificial Tears

Preserved artificial tears contain added preservatives to maintain a very long shelf and keep bacteria at bay once the bottle is opened. Unfortunately, it also causes inflammatory dry eye disease, meibomian gland dysfunction and an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive, leading to redness, irritation and inflammation. While these drops may offer temporary relief, long term they can do more harm than good. Moreover, the preservatives may leave residue on contact lenses. 

Preservative-Free Artificial Tears

Preservative-free artificial tears are great for contact lens wearers as they don’t cause any preservative build-up on the lenses. They are also suitable for those with sensitive eyes since they contain fewer ingredients that can cause irritation. 

Preservative-free eye drops typically come in a box of 28 to 30 small vials that fit in a pocket or purse. 

To use these drops, just pop the top off and insert the drops into your eyes. Some of these vials can be re-capped to allow you to continue to use the vial for up to 24 hours, but not longer. Refrigerate opened vials between uses to prevent any bacterial growth.

Oil-Based Artificial Tears

Oil-based tears come in preserved and preservative-free versions. These are thicker than traditional eye drops, as they contain an oil-based formulation. The oil helps prevent the watery portion of the tears from evaporating too quickly. 

If you suffer from moderate or severe dry eye, oil-based artificial tears may be a great option. However, they’re not recommended for contact lens wearers, as the oils may stick to the surface of the lenses, making it difficult to keep them clean.

Eye Drop Spray or Mist

These sprays are preservative-free and are used to relieve dryness and irritation in both the eyes and eyelids. They’re easy to use, especially for those who struggle to insert drops into their eyes.

To use the spray, just close your eyes and spray onto your closed eyelids. Once you blink, the tears will slide into your eyes. 

Don’t use the spray if you’re wearing makeup, lotions, or creams on your eyelids, as it can cause the makeup or lotion to enter your eye.

Artificial Tear Gel

Artificial tear gel adds a thick coating of tears and can be used at any time of the day or night. However, the thicker consistency of the gel drop may blur your vision for several minutes. 

The gel is applied in the same way as eye drops. It effectively soothes the eyes and provides extended relief for both moderate to severe dry eye.

Most artificial tear gels contain preservatives, so they can only be used up to 4 times a day, and usually they are not safe for contact lens wearers.

Artificial Tear Ointment

Dry eye ointments are thick and coat the front of your eye. They’re usually used 1 to 2 times daily as needed. It may be best to use them at bedtime, as it will blur your vision. 

Get Dry Eye Relief Today!

Artificial tears may be a good way to temporarily relieve eye dryness. However, using the wrong type of eye drops can be worse than not using any drops at all. So be sure to consult your eye doctor before you get eye drops.

Keep in mind that eye drops don’t address the root cause of dry eyes; they just provide temporary respite from the uncomfortable dry eye symptoms. Only an eye doctor can examine your eyes to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms and recommend the best treatment for your unique case of dry eye.

Schedule an appointment with Family Vision Center in Rockledge to learn more about dry eye syndrome and to find out which treatment is best for you. 

Q&A

What is dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is a condition where your eyes either produce low-quality tears or don’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes hydrated. This may be due to certain diseases (like diabetes or other autoimmune diseases), aging, allergies, hormonal changes, smoking, poor air quality, medications and the environment.

What are the symptoms of dry eye syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome can cause a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Itchy eyes
  • A feeling that there is grit or debris in the eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Burning sensation
  • Dryness
  • Irritation
  • Sensitivity to light and glare

 

The Power of Tears

tears dry eyes rubbingTears literally enable us to see. They lubricate our eyeballs and eyelids, thus preventing our eyes from dehydrating. They also provide a smooth surface for refracting light, supply oxygen, and are a vital component of the ocular defense system that protects against a range of pathogens. Below we’ll delve into the composition and types of tears, and further explain why they are so beneficial to our physical and emotional well-being.

Structure of Tears

Tears are made up of three layers: lipids, aqueous and mucous.

The lipid layer is the outermost layer and prevents the evaporation of tears. The lipids are produced by tiny glands in the eyelids called the meibomian glands.

The aqueous layer, which is the middle layer, makes up 95% of our tears. This layer supplies nutrients to the cornea, prevents infection, and heals ocular damage. This layer is effectively made up of water and is produced by the lacrimal gland.

The mucous layer is the one closest to the eye. It coats the cornea and provides a level platform that allows for an even distribution of the tear film over the eye. This layer is produced by even smaller glands called goblet cells.

The Three Types of Tears

Tears are composed of water, salts, amino acids, antibodies and lysozymes (antibacterial enzymes). However, there are several types of tears, and their composition varies. For example, the tears we shed while crying are different from the tears that flood our eyes in the presence of irritants like onions, dust or allergies.

Humans produce the following three kinds of tears:

  1. Basal – these tears are constantly at the front of the eyeball and form the liquid layer over the eyeball to keep it lubricated.
  2. Reflex – these tears appear when the eye is irritated, such as when the eyes feel gritty or when we get dust, sand or other small foreign objects in our eyes.
  3. Psychogenic – these tears are sparked by emotion. They possess a higher protein level than basal and reflex tears, which makes them thicker, causing them to stream more slowly. Psychogenic tears are made up of higher concentrations of stress hormones such as adrenocorticotropic hormone and leucine enkephalin (a natural painkiller). This suggests that emotional tears play an important role in balancing stress hormone levels.

Tears Serve the Following Functions

Prevent dryness
Tears prevent dryness by lubricating the surface of the eye. Each time we blink we spread this cushioning layer of tears across the front of the eyes.

Supply oxygen and nutrients
Oxygen and nutrients are delivered to the cornea through our tears.

Prevent infection
Not only do tears wash away foreign bodies that enter the eye, but they can also prevent infection thanks to an antibacterial property contained within tears called lysozyme. This antibacterial agent fights off the germs we pick up in our surroundings.

Heal ocular damage
Tears are made up of substances that heal damage to the surface of the eye. Damage can be caused by foreign objects and even high exposure to UV rays.

Create a smooth surface on the eye
Tears lubricate and smooth our eye’s surface, leading light to be correctly focused and enabling us to see clearly.

Remove Toxins
Emotional tears contain more toxic byproducts than reflex tears (caused by irritation), and can thus flush out many toxins and stress hormones.

Dull pain and improve mood
Crying for extended periods of time releases Oxycontin and endorphins. These feel-good hormones can help diminish both physical and emotional pain. Once the endorphins are released, your body may enter a more relaxed stage, with Oxycontin providing you with a sense of calm and well-being.

As you can see, tears are invaluable for clear vision, protecting your eyes, flushing out irritants, and soothing emotions.

If you feel that your eyes are not as comfortable or your vision is not as clear as usual, contact Dr. Frank A. Curington at Family Vision Center in Rockledge today. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 321-616-7077 to find out our eye exam appointment availability, or to request an appointment with one of our Rockledge eye doctors.