The eye care aisle of the pharmacy has hundreds of different options for eye drops, ointments, and other products. It is not uncommon for optometrists to recommend over-the-counter products or medications for the treatment of dry eye disease or ocular allergies. Many of these non-prescriptions items can be very helpful, but deciding on which eye drop to buy is overwhelming and confusing. It is important to remember that if you have questions regarding the recommended products or medications, it is best to ask your eye doctor for help. We have also compiled a brief guide to help you better understand some of the over-the-counter products available to you.
Over the Counter Eye Drops: The Best Artificial Tear
Artificial tears are the most common treatment choice for reducing the symptoms of dry eye disease. The options for artificial tears are extensive, with choices like name-brand or generic, or gels versus more fluid options. A popular recommendation among eye care providers is preservative-free artificial tears. This lubricating option comes in a single dose vial and contains no added preservatives, making it a superior option for those who have a very irritated ocular surface or those who have a sensitivity to certain additives or preservatives. Gel lubricating drops are another choice; these artificial tears are thicker than traditional eye drops, meaning they stay on the cornea longer and provide lubrication for a longer period of time. Gel drops are especially good for those affected by nighttime dryness. For people with Meibomian gland dysfunction, your optometrist may recommend a lipid-based artificial tear. Overall, all doctors can agree that it is important to ensure that the eye drop you choose is a lubricating artificial tear, not simply an eye wash or saline. While saline solution can be a useful eye care product in some cases, it should not be used for the treatment of dry eye disease.
What is Wrong with OTC Redness Removers?
Many different eye drops advertise that they remove redness from the eye. One of the most popular of these drops is Visine. Redness removing eye drops work by constricting blood vessels in the whites of your eyes, making the vessels smaller and less noticeable. They do not address the underlying dryness or irritation that is likely causing the redness, and most redness relieving drops do not contain any ingredients that lubricate and nourish the surface of the eye. Long-term use of Visine has been shown to cause “rebound redness,” where the eye becomes even more red after the whitening effects of the eye drop wears off. Instead of choosing these redness relievers, ask your doctor about the best option that treats the underlying cause of your red eyes.
Over the Counter Allergy Eye Drops
There are some prescription eye drops that can be used to treat the itching, puffiness, and redness associated with ocular allergies, but these can come with a hefty price tag. In mild cases of ocular allergies, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter solution instead. There are several different medications that can now be purchased at the drug store for a more affordable price, such as ketotifen and olopatadine, and these drops are highly effective in reducing redness and itchiness. These medications are advertised as relief for eye allergies and can typically be found by the artificial tears. Again, if you have questions about which medications are best, we recommend contacting your optometrist.