Eye drops are as commonplace as multivitamins and pain relievers. People often reach out for them when they experience dryness, itchy eyes, or infection. Eye drops can often deliver instant gratification, offering immediate relief to whatever causes irritation. Even so, when overused or applied incorrectly, eye drops, no matter how helpful they can be, may pose a severe health risk.

If you are a frequent eye drop user, here are a few tips on how to use eye drops properly.

1. Choose the right type of over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops

There are different types of OTC eye drops, so pick the one that best suits your needs.

  • Artificial Tears: Typically used to maintain moisture, artificial tears are infused with electrolytes and thickening agents to alleviate dryness. If you often experience dry eyes, single-dose preservative-free eye drops are recommended.
  • Medicated Eye Drops: These eye drops usually contain topical agents like sympathomimetics to take care of irritation or redness. They are typically used for patients diagnosed with glaucoma. 
  • Allergy Eye Drops: Similar to medicated eye drops, these contain antihistamines. They are recommended for frequent and continued use if you experience an increase in dryness and irritation. 

2. Know the risks of being overly dependent on eye drops

Overusing eye drops is not an isolated phenomenon. If you find yourself continually exceeding the doctor-recommended daily use and consider them as a cure rather than temporary treatment, then you may be becoming overly dependent on eye drops. 

Put a stop to it immediately, or at least try to regulate your usage. If not, you’ll be exposing yourself to various risks. For instance, eye drops with decongestants can restrict blood flow to your sclera. When you stop using them, you might experience rebounding, which causes your eye’s blood vessels to enlarge and redden.

Meanwhile, artificial tears lubricate your eyes and facilitate tear production, but overuse can deplete your bank of natural tears. When applied irresponsibly, you may risk washing away your natural tears and all the natural moisturizers that work to protect your eyes.

Being reckless with your use of eye drops can also lead to more severe eye problems. Since they offer immediate relief and attend to the symptoms and not the cause of irritation, they can mask other eye issues that may require immediate attention. 

3. Be aware of serious conditions that eye drops could be masking

Because eye drops can provide you with relief, you might not know that the irritation or dryness is due to a more serious condition.

  • Pink eye: Also called conjunctivitis, pink eye causes an itchy and burning sensation on one or both eyes. It may go away by itself, but some cases may require the use of antibiotics.
  • Eye trauma: Excessive rubbing and scratching can damage blood vessels, making the eyes look red and feel itchy.
  • Eye strain: People who are in front of screens for long periods often experience tired and irritated eyes. 
  • Blepharitis: Bacterial or fungal infections can lead to inflamed and red eyelids, requiring a more intense treatment that eye drops cannot provide.

Schedule a check-up with an eye doctor

If you find that you’re increasingly dependent on eye drops, it’s best to consult with an eye doctor before it’s too late. They can best assess your condition and offer you the care that you need. If dry eyes are your problem, Dry Eye Directory can connect you with a dry eye specialist that can give you the best treatment.