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How do I Choose the Best over-The-Counter Eye Drops?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Choosing the right over-the-counter eye drops usually depends on the type of eye problem that you have. Some eye drops are specifically designed to treat dry eyes, while others are designed to treat red or itchy eyes. In the case of most eye infections, however, over-the-counter eye drops may not be enough. For these types of conditions, your doctor may give you a prescription for eye drops.

Dry eyes are a common problem. This condition is usually temporary, and can be caused by a number of things, such as lack of sleep or staring at small print for an extended period of time. Lubricating eye drops are considered to be the best type of over-the-counter eye drops for dry eye sufferers. These contain artificial tears, which are similar to the natural tears that keep eyes moist. Although they may provide temporary dry eye relief, eye drops that are designed for red eyes should be avoided as they can make the problem worse.

Decongestant eye drops are a type of eye drop formulated for clearing up red eyes. These over-the-counter eye drops contain an ingredient that shrinks the blood vessels on the surface of the eye, making them less apparent. Prolonged use of these types of drops is not typically recommended, since the eye can become dependent on them. This may result in a person constantly needing to use the drops to get rid of red eyes.

Allergies during the spring and fall are quite common, and many people suffer from itchy eyes during this time. If you suffer from itchy eyes due to seasonal allergies, you may benefit from antihistamine eye drops. These types of over-the-counter eye drops work by blocking the release of certain chemicals in the body that cause allergic itching.

Conjunctivitis occurs when the mucous membrane that covers the eyeball becomes inflamed. Symptoms of this condition can include redness, itching, burning, and swelling of the eye, along with a discharge. Bacterial conjunctivitis usually does not benefit from over-the-counter eye drops and may require prescription eye drops.

When using any kind of eye drops, you should always make sure that the tip of the dropper never comes in contact with your eye. This can possibly contaminate the dropper and reinfect you or others with bacterial or viral eye diseases. To use over-the-counter eye drops, tilt your head back, and pull your lower eyelid down. Drip one or two drops into your eye and blink a few times to distribute them.

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Discussion Comments
By SarahGen — On Mar 13, 2013
@alisha-- I have tried it. It burns temporarily and then goes away. It gives a very cool sensation and it does help with redness. After a couple of hours though, my eyes feel kind of dry. I only use it once in a blue moon.
By discographer — On Mar 12, 2013

Has anyone tried those over-the-counter eye drops with menthol in them?

I heard that these are great for red eyes and inflammation. Apparently, it even makes the white part of the eyes whiter. But I'm not so sure if putting menthol in the eye is a good idea. Doesn't it burn?

By SteamLouis — On Mar 12, 2013

I have dry eye and I cannot use anything other than artificial tears with carboxymethylcellulose sodium for my eyes. I don't want to advertise a specific brand, but I basically buy the most expensive over-the-counter eye drops with this ingredient.

I've tried almost every otc eye drop and most irritated my eyes or did absolutely nothing for dryness. There is only one or two brands that actually relieve my dry eye symptoms without causing irritation.

I think finding the right eye drop is a matter of trial and error. But I would suggesting staying away from cheap brands.

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