Dry eyes are a common concern that can be due to many different reasons. They can result from aging, environmental factors, or be a symptom of another condition. Gel drops are thicker versions of artificial tears that can relieve the due to dry eyes.

Gel drops are thicker in substance than other types of available eye drops and tend to stay in the eye longer.

People often use gel drops overnight for comfort and to replenish eye moisture. They may also try them after using other dry eye remedies that have been ineffective.

This article examines what conditions gel eye drops treat, which over-the-counter (OTC) gel eye drops are available, the difference between prescription and OTC eye drops, and side effects and interactions.

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Dry eye gel drops treat symptoms involving a lack of moisture in the eye or the production of reduced quality tears.

When the eye blinks, tears spread across the surface of the eye. If the eye does not produce enough tears, or the tears are of insufficient quality, the surface of the eye cannot maintain lubrication. Symptoms of dye eyes may include:

  • burning
  • itching
  • a gritty feeling
  • soreness
  • red eyes
  • blurry vision
  • light sensitivity
  • watery eyes

Gel drops for dry eyes treat dryness or redness of the eyes due to several factors. Eye dryness may result from:

  • aging
  • contact lenses
  • computer use
  • air conditioning or heating
  • wind, dust, cold, or dry air
  • smoke or alcohol use
  • certain medications
  • some health conditions such as lupus or Sjögren’s disease

There are several types of OTC eye drops available.

Artificial tears mimic natural tears and are suitable for people with mild-to-moderate eye dryness.

Gel drops fall under the category of artificial tears, but manufacturers formulate them to stay in the eye longer and provide more moisturization than other types of artificial tears.

However, gel drops can cause temporary blurriness in vision until the drops settle into the eye. These drops are suitable for people with cases of moderate-to-severe dry eye.

Some of the more common types of OTC gel eye drops found includes:

  • Systane, which contains the active ingredients polyethylene glycol 400 and propylene glycol 0.3%.
  • Blink GelTears, which includes the active ingredient polyethylene glycol 400.
  • GenTeal Tears, which contains the active ingredients dextran 70 0.1% and hypromellose 2910 0.3%.
  • Refresh Celluvisc, which includes the active ingredient carboxymethylcellulose sodium 1%.

All these gel drops treat dry eyes due to environmental, medical, or other factors. People may also use them to treat red eyes, and pink eye, which many people know as conjunctivitis.

Reduced quality or quantity tear production usually causes dry eye. When there is exposure to the pH of the surface of the eye, some of the gel’s inactive ingredients, usually gelling agents, work to form a matrix that coats the eye. This provides protection and soothing.

For many cases of dry eye, OTC dry eye gel drops will be the first treatment approach. However, since they blur vision temporarily, they may only be suitable for use before bed, alongside using artificial tears throughout the day.

If the OTC gel drops are ineffective and eye dryness persists, a person can speak with an eye doctor or ophthalmologist for a full evaluation. They may recommend prescription versions of eye drops, which may include medications called cyclosporine (Restasis) or lifitegrast (Xiidra).

In rare cases, individuals may have an allergic reaction to dry eye gel drops. Symptoms include:

  • itchiness
  • swelling
  • breathing difficulty
  • dizziness
  • feeling ill

More commonly, an individual might experience side effects, including:

  • eye pain
  • eye irritation or redness
  • change in vision

Additionally, a person should take care not to touch the tip of the eye drop container to the eye or anything else when administering dry eye gel drops. If this occurs, it could lead to serious infections.

There should not be any interactions between dry eye gel drops and other medications.

However, if a person is using two types of dry eye gel drops, they should separate applying them by at least 5 minutes.

Additionally, if individuals use a dry eye gel ointment, they should allow at least 10 minutes before applying it.

A person can use dry eye gel drops to relieve the symptoms of dry eyes due to several factors.

Environmental conditions, such as cold, wind, or smoky air, may contribute to dry eyes. Certain medical conditions and looking at computer screens for prolonged times can also dry the eyes.

Gel drops are thicker than normal artificial tears, so people generally use them at night just before going to bed. This is because gel drops may cause temporary blurred vision until they settle onto the surface of the eyes.

There are popular OTC gel eye drops, which many eye doctors may recommend first to treat dry eyes. If these do not work, they may recommend prescription versions.