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Dry eyes are very common. Many different factors can cause the condition, including the aging process or an underlying disease. Eye drops may help alleviate symptoms. A person can purchase the drops over the counter or get a prescription from a doctor.
A quick look at the 6 best eye drops for dry eyes
- Best homeopathic: Similasan Complete Eye Relief Drops
- Best for extended relief: Blink Tears Lubricating Eye Drops
- Best preservative-free: Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops
- Best for LASIK dryness: Refresh Plus Lubricant Eye Drops
- Best for use with soft contact lenses: Biotrue Hydration Boost Eye Drops
- Best with mineral oil: Soothe XP Emollient Eye Drops
There are various reasons a person may experience dry eyes, from their environment to medications such as antihistamines.
Eye drops are often the preferred method for treating dry eyes. There is a variety of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops that a doctor may recommend.
There are a number of potential eye drops to consider when treating symptoms of dry eyes. Examples include:
- Artificial tears are the most common treatment method and are available over the counter or online. There are a variety of brands, and it may take some trial and error for people to find the artificial tears that work best for them.
- Cyclosporine is a prescription eye drop designed to help treat dry eyes. This medication helps the eyes produce more tears. Typically, it is applied two times a day.
- Lifitegrast is a small-molecule integrin antagonist that reduces T cell-mediated inflammation. It is only available with a prescription.
- Autologous blood serum drops are drops made from a patient’s own blood. These are used in severe cases where a patient’s dry eyes are not responding to other drops or treatments. These drops are created by taking a sample of the person’s blood, removing the red blood cells, and adding a salt solution.
Depending on the cause, eye drops may not be enough to fully treat dry eyes. Other medications may be needed to treat underlying conditions that cause dry eyes.
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Below, we look at some OTC eye drops for people to consider.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.
Best homeopathic: Similasan Complete Eye Relief Drops
|Quantity||10 milliliters (ml) bottle|
|Pros||natural ingredients, nonirritating, no harsh chemicals|
|Cons||bottle design, may not be effective or suitable for everyone|
This product is made with natural ingredients and relieves dry, red, watery, stinging, itching, and burning eyes.
The manufacturer says the drops work by activating the body’s natural defenses. It also claims a person can use the drops as often as they need without any side effects.
Best for extended relief: Blink Tears Lubricating Eye Drops
|Pros||instant and extended relief, minimal blurred vision|
|Cons||unsuitable for extreme dry eye, more expensive than other options|
The product’s unique visco-adaptive formula provides instant relief for dry, irritated, itching, and burning eyes.
It is best suited for treating mild to moderate dry eye.
The manufacturer claims this product’s unique formula allows the drops to stay in the eye longer for extended relief.
It also says that people who use the product report less blurring than they had experienced when using other lubricating eye drops.
Best preservative-free: Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops
|Quantity||one box of 60 individual vials|
|Pros||long lasting relief, the company claims it is doctor recommended|
|Cons||packaging is not environmentally friendly, more expensive than other options|
This company markets this product as being a doctor-recommended brand of artificial tears.
It offers extended relief for dry, irritated, burning, stinging, scratchy, and tired eyes. The product may also help alleviate blurry vision.
Best for LASIK dryness: Refresh Plus Lubricant Eye Drops
|Quantity||one box of 30 individual vials|
|Pros||preservative-free, gentle for sensitive eyes, suitable for use following LASIK surgery|
|Cons||packaging is not environmentally friendly|
This preservative-free product instantly moisturizes and lubricates dry eyes.
Its formulation mimics natural tears and works well for people with sensitive eyes.
Doctors may recommend this product after LASIK surgery and other eye procedures to alleviate eye dryness and discomfort.
The product comes in single-use vials.
Best for use with soft contact lenses: Biotrue Hydration Boost Eye Drops
|Pros||preservative-free, natural ingredients, instant relief, pH balanced, suitable for use with soft contact lenses, bottle design helps keep the drops free from preservatives|
|Cons||bottle design may not suit everyone|
These preservative-free drops from Bausch + Lomb have natural ingredients, antioxidants, and electrolytes providing instant relief for dry and irritated eyes.
Individuals can use these pH-balanced drops when wearing soft contact lenses.
Best with mineral oil: Soothe XP Emollient Eye Drops
|Quantity||two 15 ml bottles|
|Pros||restore the eye’s lipid layer, extended relief time|
|Cons||may blur vision|
These protecting lubricant eye drops contain Restoryl mineral oils that may restore the eye’s lipid layer to prevent tear loss for long lasting dryness relief.
The drops also seal in moisture to protect the eyes from further irritation and discomfort due to minor irritations from exposure to environmental elements.
The table below provides an overview of how the best eye drops for dry eyes compare.
|Similasan Complete Eye Relief Drops||homeopathic||no rebound side effects||bottle design||around $10 for 10 ml|
|Blink Tears Lubricating Eye Drops||for extended relief||minimal blurring||not for extreme dry eye||around $19 for 30 ml|
|Systane Ultra Lubricant Eye Drops||preservative-free||doctor recommended||pricey||around $23 for 60 vials|
|Refresh Plus Lubricant Eye Drops||for LASIK dryness||gentle for sensitive eyes||packaging||around $11 for 30 vials|
|Biotrue Hydration Boost Eye Drops||for use with soft contact lenses||preservative-free||bottle design||around $11 for 10 ml|
|Soothe XP Emollient Eye Drops||with mineral oil||extended relief||blurred vision||around $17 for two 15 ml bottles|
There are some factors to consider when selecting eye drops for treating dry eyes. For example:
- People should avoid eye drops designed to remove red from the eye. These are often not meant to exclusively treat dry eyes.
- If a person has glaucoma or another eye disease, they should only take OTC medication if a doctor recommends it.
- Different OTC eye drops have different ingredients. Some drops might work well for some people and not as well for others.
Additionally, there are two types of artificial tear drops — one that contains preservatives and one that does not. Some people find that the preservatives irritate their eyes, so they need to use a preservative-free variety.
People considering OTC eye drops for treating dry eyes should consult with a doctor before trying these products.
Causes of dry eyes
The cause of a person’s dry eyes is one of the most important factors and should be discussed with a doctor. Dry eyes can have many causes. These causes may be environmental, result from an underlying medical condition, or occur as a result of medication use.
Environmental factors that can cause dry eyes include dry air, dust, prolonged periods of staring at a screen, and other irritants.
For some people, dry eyes may directly result from an infection. In these cases, people should also seek treatment for their underlying disease.
The use of certain medications is another possible cause of dry eye. In these cases, a person may want to discuss the discontinuation of the medication that is causing dry eye. If that is not an option, eye drops can be used to help reduce the occurrence of dry eye.
Possible side effects
Temporary blurred vision may occur when using eye drops.
Some of the potential side effects of using eye drops to treat dry eye include:
- increased sensitivity of eyes to light
- blurred vision
- watering of eyes
- discomfort or other irritation as a result of the medication
- matting or stickiness of eyelashes
- eyelid swelling
As with any medication, if a person experiences side effects from eye drops, they should stop using them and consult a doctor right away. In general, the side effects of taking eye drops are minimal.
Anyone considering using eye drops to treat dry eyes may want to consult a doctor before trying OTC eye drops.
A person should see a doctor as soon as possible if they have symptoms that persist for longer than 1 week or if they have used OTC eye drops with little effect.
A doctor can help rule out and potentially treat underlying health conditions for people with prolonged or more severe cases of dry eye. They may prescribe prescription eye drops to treat the source of the dry eye or offer advice on how to treat the dry eyes.
People who have glaucoma or another eye disease should only take OTC medication if a doctor recommends it.
Although eye drops are the most typical and recommended treatment for dry eye, other treatments are available. For example, some of the medications available in drop form are also available as a gel to help in cases where the eyes get dried out quickly over a period of time.
In some cases, oral medication may help decrease dry eyes. These medications are often antibiotics that target the eyelid’s swelling, which may interfere with natural oil creation.
Additional medical options include:
- an eye insert that slowly releases a substance that lubricates the eyes over time
- closing the tear ducts
- special contacts
- eye therapies
People with dry eyes may also consider changes to their environment and habits. Often, this can consist of adding a humidifier to the home or office to help increase moisture in the air.
Other suggestions include blinking more often, avoiding prolonged hours of staring at an electronic screen, or switching to glasses from contact lenses.
Below are some frequently asked questions about eye drops for dry eyes.
Is it OK to use dry eye drops every day?
That depends on the type of eye drops a person uses. Eye drops that contain preservatives are unsuitable for long-term use and a person should limit their usage.
However, individuals can use preservative-free eye drops more frequently and for more extended periods of time.
How often should you use eye drops for dry eyes?
Eye drops with preservatives may irritate the eyes if used extensively. A person should not use them more than six times a day.
An individual may use preservative-free eye drops more frequently, as long as they do not irritate the eyes.
How many eye drops should you put in dry eyes?
Most eye drop brands recommend using one to two drops per eye with each use. People should always follow manufacturer instructions and consult a doctor if they have any questions.
Dry eyes are a common condition easily treated with over-the-counter eye drops. Sometimes, a doctor may also advise using prescription-only eye drops.
Some eye drops contain preservatives that some people may find irritates the eyes, but preservative-free options are available.
Environmental factors and infections or diseases can cause dry eyes, and if a person experiences symptoms that last longer than 1 week, or OTC eye drops have little effect, they should consider speaking with a doctor.