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Always Reaching for Your Eye Drops? Here’s What You Should Know

October 7, 2019

From alleviating dry eyes and easing digital eye strain to getting the red out of pink eye and soothing itchy eyes from allergies, over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops bring a lot of relief when it comes to short-term solutions for common eye ailments.

But if you find yourself using eye drops frequently, or have relied on eye drops for relief for a prolonged period of time, this may signal more serious eye problems. 

And if you’re consistently exceeding the daily use recommendations or view eye drops as a cure, rather than temporary treatment, these are signs that you’re overusing eye drops, which can cause a number of issues, which include: 

  • Actually making eye problems worse
  • Washing away your natural tears
  • Creating a possible addiction, as the effects of eye drops subside and original symptoms may return stronger upon discontinuation

To help you gain a better understanding of proper eye-drop use, here are a few things you need to know.


If the cause of red eyes is not serious, decongestants will make them look and feel better by shrinking the dilated blood vessels that are behind this problematic appearance. Some decongestants also contain antihistamine, which can relieve itching.

Decongestant eye drops should not be used more than three to four times a day. Excessive use may cause a “rebound” effect, making the eyes become even redder and more irritated when the drops are no longer used.

Lubricating Drops

Also known as artificial tears, lubricating drops provide moisture and lubrication to the outer surfaces of the eyes to relieve symptoms of dryness and irritation. They are especially useful for people suffering from dry eye syndrome. 

These drops do not shrink the blood vessels and may be used more frequently than decongestant eye drops. 

It is possible for some people to develop allergies to the preservatives in lubricating eye drops. If this should occur, you can get preservative-free eye drops, which come in multiple one-time-use vials. You do, however, have to purchase this kind of eye drop more frequently, as it is not shelf-stable.

Eye Washes

Sometimes called “collyrium” drops, eye washes are used to clean, refresh or soothe irritated eyes but do not decongest or lubricate. They contain various compounds, such as boric acid and methanol, and can be used to flush away foreign objects, like debris from the air or chlorinated water, from the eye. These drops typically have very little use and are usually not recommended.

When needed, eye drops can serve as a “quick fix” for many common and minor eye problems. But if you experience the need for excessive or ongoing use of eye drops in order to find relief, you very likely have a more serious underlying condition. (Which overuse of eye drops can exacerbate.) 

If you find yourself regularly relying on eye drops, it’s time you get the last relief you need by being evaluated and effectively treated. At OCLI, we have extensive experience treating dry eye and many other troubling eye conditions. Contact us today and we’ll help you lose the eye drops and find the lasting relief you’ve been searching for.

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