Are All Over-the-Counter Drops the Same?

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Are All Over-the-Counter Drops the Same?

By aitkineyeca32139567, Feb 21 2020 04:00PM

Are All Over-the-Counter Drops the Same?

You’ve tried several different eye drops but your eyes still a little red and feel dry and scratchy. So you stand in the drug store looking at rows of eye drops. What should you choose? Are they all the same?

No, they are not the same. Some of the drops are allergy drops; others are “get the red out” drops, still others are contact lens rewetting drops; and then there are dry eye drops.

Most of the dry eye drops are simply salt and water. This unfortunately is not effective for most people with dry eyes. They are good for rinsing out a foreign object, like sand, dirt, or even an eyelash. Our tears naturally consist of water, oil, and mucus, so a good artificial tear drop will try to mimic our natural tears, and so will contain more than salt and water.

To further complicate things the preservative in the bottle can cause irritation for people with dry eyes. Manufacturers overcome this problem by making preservative-free artificial tears and developing gentler, less harsh to the eye preservatives. As a general guideline, if you need to put drops in more than 4 times per day on a regular basis you are best off with preservative free drops. Otherwise we typically recommend a brand name artificial tear drop that mimics natural tears and has a “soft” preservative.

“Get the red out” drops, such as Visine and Murine, contain a chemical that constricts blood flow to the eye. That is how they make the eye look white. It is not a good idea to constrict the blood supply to your eyes on a regular basis. Furthermore, that same chemical has an addictive effect on the eye, causing the eyes to become redder when you try to stop using them. It is a much better idea to try to find the underlying cause of the redness.

Allergy drops can be just about as confusing. We recommend “ketotifen” which used to be by prescription but is now over-the-counter. This is a more potent and longer acting allergy drop than any other over-the-counter allergy drop.

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