Selecting and using OTC products for dry eyes
A variety of nonprescription products for dry eyes are available, including eyedrops (artificial tears), gels and ointments. Talk with your doctor about which might be best for you. Your doctor should provide you with the product referral pad showcasing which items they have selected for your specific dry eye problem. Be sure to insert the provided coupon code, as this helps report back to your doctor that you are complying with the treatment.
Consider these factors when selecting an OTC lubrication:
- Preservative vs. non preservative drops. Preservatives are added to some eyedrops to prolong shelf life. You can use eyedrops with preservatives up to four times a day. But using the preservative drops more often can cause eye irritation. Most doctors will recommend preservative free as a 1st line treatment.
Non preservative eyedrops come in packages that contain multiple single-use vials such as Blink Tears and now multidose bottles such as Freshkote. After you use a vial, you throw it away. If you rely on eyedrops more than four times a day, no preservative drops are safe and recommended.
- Drops vs. ointments. Lubricating eye ointments coat your eyes, providing longer lasting relief from dry eyes. But these products are thicker than eyedrops and can cloud your vision. For this reason, ointments are best used just before bedtime. Eyedrops can be used at any time and won't interfere with your vision. I-Defense and Hylo Night are the most popular nighttime ointments and are preservative-free.
- Oil Based or Hyaluronic Acid Drops. HA eye drops have increased in patients with dry eye recently due to its water retention and lubrication properties. These drops tend to stay on the eye longer than standard drops thus reducing the number of applications needed throughout the day. Optase Intense and Oasis Tears are the most popular in this category.
- Drops that reduce redness. It's best to avoid these as your solution for dry eyes, as prolonged use can cause more irritation and redness. Lumify uses a different mechanism of action and is considered a better option over Visine or other vasoconstricting products.
- Multi-Layer Artificial Tear. This tear mimics the inner mucin layer by adhering to any dry spots and attracting the water portion of the tear. It also integrates with the oil layer to reduce evaporation, all while increasing the oncotic pressure of the surface of the eye. Increased oncotic pressure draws excess water from the cells onto the surface of the eye, thus increasing tear volume. Freshkote is the only drop in this category and is preservative free and can be used with contact lenses.