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dry eye syndrome

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 Antoine Eye Care in St. Louis 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

 

Home Remedies For Dry Eye

woman washing her face with water 2087954If your eyes burn, itch or feel gritty, you may have dry eye syndrome. This is typically caused by a low production of tears or low-quality tears.

Many substances and situations can cause dry eyes, such as the medication you’re taking, the time spent staring at your phone or computer without blinking, exposure to smoke or dry air, wearing contact lenses or aging. No matter the cause, it feels pretty terrible.

If you’re stuck at home and social distancing in order to keep yourself and others safe, worry not — you can still find relief from your unpleasant symptoms. In addition to using artificial tears and ocular lubricants, you may want to try these at-home remedies with products or items you may have in your cupboard.

Eyelid Wash

One way to produce higher quality tears is to keep your eyelids clean. You can do this by using a gentle cleanser, such as baby shampoo, and rubbing a small amount between your fingertips until it becomes frothy. Simply close your eyes and gently massage the soap into the base of your eyelids, right by your eyelashes, and then rinse with warm water while keeping your eyes closed.

Pay particular attention to the areas with makeup or facial creams that could enter the tear film and potentially irritate your eyes. Follow the eyelid wash with a warm compress (see below) to help your eyes regain moisture.

Repeat this process morning and night to relieve dry eye symptoms.

Warm Compress

A warm compress increases circulation to the eye area and stimulates tear production. This method also soothes your eye irritation by releasing oils that may have accumulated in the glands of your eyelid, thus improving tear quality.

Instructions: Prepare a bowl with warm water. Then soak a clean, lint-free cloth in the water, wring it out and place it over your eyes for a maximum of ten minutes. If the compress cools down, soak it once again in the warm water. Do this several times a day for a few days until your eyes feel better.

Add Omega-3 to Your Diet

Those lacking essential fatty acids in their diet are prone to developing dry eye syndrome. Studies show that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may stimulate tear production and create quality tears that lubricate your eyes more effectively. Consider supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids, which are naturally found in foods like salmon, sardines, anchovies, and flax seeds. Taking fish oil capsules or other omega-3 tablets also works really well.

Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is great for those with dry eyes, as it creates a protective layer over the tear film layers, resulting in reduced evaporation. Furthermore, coconut oil has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. All you need to do is soak a cotton ball in coconut oil and place it on your closed eyelid. Do this several times a day until your eyes feel better.

Increase Caffeine Intake

Studies indicate that caffeine may alleviate dry eye by increasing production in the tear glands. Just make sure you’re careful when consuming caffeine, as it can lead to jitters, irritability and insomnia, particularly if you’re sensitive to caffeine, or if consumed in high quantities.

The participants in one study consumed capsules with 200 mg to 600 mg of caffeine (or 2-6 cups of coffee), depending on their weight.

On the other hand, caffeine in some people may act as a mild diuretic, which means they generally pass more water, possibly making the dry eye worse.

Change Your Environment

You may need to change your environment to prevent or alleviate dry eye, as dry air, high winds, dust, smoke, pollution and air conditioning can lead to temporary eye dryness. Consider using a cold-mist humidifier and avoid sitting directly in front of air conditioners or fans.

Wear Sunglasses

When outdoors, particularly when it’s windy, dusty or there’s the risk of high levels of UV exposure, wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes and decrease the chance of debris entering the eyes. Additionally, the front of your eyes has a protective layer called the conjunctiva, which can become red and inflamed when exposed to high levels of UV light or dust. Wearing good quality sunglasses will further prevent the eyes from experiencing those dry and irritating feelings.

Dry eye syndrome can cause another condition called photophobia, or acute sensitivity to light. By wearing sunglasses, you can further ease your dry eye symptoms.

More tips to prevent or alleviate dry eye symptoms

Blink More

By deliberately blinking, you stimulate the flow of tears which can help keep the moisture on your eyes intact. Though purposeful blinking may look unnatural, it’s still worth practicing in order to get used to blinking enough throughout the day — particularly when staring at screens (computer or digital devices) for extended periods.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body, which then affects the quality of your tears. Consider limiting your alcohol intake, or eliminate it entirely, and see whether there’s a correlation between your alcohol consumption and dry eyes.

Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoking can double the risk of developing dry eye syndrome. Cigarette smoke is harmful to the eyes as it has more than 7,000 chemicals, all of which can irritate eyes. Furthermore, smoking can impact the composition of your tears.

If you’re a smoker, consider quitting. If you’re a non-smoker, avoid environments where there is an abundance of heavy smoking.

Drink More Water

Last but not least: drink more water! Staying well-hydrated is good for your eyes and is critical for manufacturing healthy tears, clearing out debris, blinking and seeing comfortably.

Make sure you drink 8-10 glasses of water a day for eye health, and of course, overall general physical wellbeing.

At-home remedies can alleviate mild and temporary instances of the condition. If the symptoms persist or worsen, contact Antoine Eye Care Dry Eye Center to speak with Dr. Michael Antoine, O.D..

Antoine Eye Care Dry Eye Center is committed to helping you manage your long-term eye health. We serve patients from St. Louis, Brentwood, Clayton, Ladue, and throughout Missouri.

Resources:

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/caffeine-dry-eye

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120417102358.htm

https://www.healio.com/optometry/nutrition/news/print/primary-care-optometry-news/%7B4ec4aff0-09b2-4c1c-aca1-7c8201b7610b%7D/ods-recommend-omega-3-omega-6-supplements-for-managing-dry-eye

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