Facts about Eye Drops
Eye drops are available to treat many different types of eye problems. A wide array of over the counter (OTC) drops are offered in pharmacies without prescription to treat minor eye conditions such as dryness, swelling, redness, itching and soreness.
Drops for more serious eye conditions can only be dispensed by a pharmacist from a prescription issued by a medical doctor. For instance antibiotic drops are prescribed for eyes suffering from a bacterial infection. Anti-inflammatory steroid drops are sometimes prescribed to treat certain types of pathological inflammatory conditions and pressure lowering drops are prescribed for glaucoma. For these more serious conditions the eyes need to be examined by an eye doctor who can prescribe the appropriate drug treatments.
Relief for Dry Eyes
Occasional dry eye is a common eye condition that may be relieved by over-the-counter lubricating eye drops. Factors that can predispose to this condition include fatigue from prolonged computer use or reading and sometimes windy or sunny outdoor conditions, traveling in a car with the hot air blowing, airline traveling or air-conditioning at work.
Long-term, chronic dry eye is sometimes associated with menopause in women or associated with general disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. Chronic dry eye can also occur following trauma or chemical burns to the eye. Some medicines may also cause chronic dry eye such as antihistamines, oral contraceptives and certain types of blood pressure medicines. Never stop a medicine prescribed by your doctor without discussing it with him or her.
Lubricating ointment or gel in either preserved or non-preserved preparations can help relieve dry eye symptoms. Ointments are best used before sleeping at night as some ointments, especially those formulated for severe dryness, cause temporary vision blur. If the ointment is to be used during the day, it should be applied a long time prior doing anything that requires clear vision such as driving.
When OTC preparations do not relieve the dryness, or if the dryness is prolonged, you should visit an eye doctor for a full medical diagnosis and appropriate treatment advice.
Relief for Red Eyes
Red eye is a common complaint and is often an innocent finding; however there are also many serious causes of red eye which should be out ruled or treated by your own G.P. or an eye doctor. As a simple rule of thumb you should be concerned if the red eye is associated with any of the following:
Long duration, most simple red eye should clear-up on its own in a few days
Pain, most non-serious red-eye conditions should be non-painful or at worse mildly uncomfortable. Viral conjunctivitis, which does not require any specific treatment, is described as itchy or “uncomfortable”. Viral conjunctivitis is very contagious and you should be careful to wash your hands carefully, don’t touch your eyes and make no contact with other people. When the eyes are “very itchy” this probably means you are suffering from allergic conjunctivitis which your G.P. can easily treat. If a deep pain occurs in the eye then this may indicate a serious intra-ocular inflammatory condition called uveitis and an eye doctor should be consulted without delay. Sharp fleeting stabbing pains are usually not of serious significance and are often due to acute dryness of the cornea which can be relieved with copious amounts of preservative free eye drops.
Photophobia (distress from bright light) may be a serious symptom which can indicate a break on the surface of the cornea or abnormal inflammation within the eye.
Pussy or sticky discharge. This could indicate that you may need antibiotics which would need to be prescribed by a medical doctor.
We don’t recommend the regular or prolonged use of OTC eye whitening drops as these often use adrenaline like hormones to constrict the blood vessels. These drops can cause rebound hyperaemia (extra redness) or a worsening of symptoms when the drops are stopped.
Simple OTC lubricating eye drops can help relieve red eyes caused by simple irritation, sleep deprivation, tiredness or dryness.
Are Preservative-Free Eye Drops Safe to Use?
Preservatives are used in many products including eye drops to make them safe for use by inhibiting microbial growth. Still, many eye doctors prescribe preservative-free eye drops to patients who are sensitive or allergic to preservatives in order to avoid irritation, redness and further dryness.
Preservative-free eye drops are made available in single-use capsules and are meant to be discarded after use, as they are prone to bacterial growth when exposed to elements. Preservative free drops tend to be more expensive than traditional preparations but can be used more frequently as there is less chance of allergy or toxic reaction. Preservative free drops are safe and effective for the right patients once instructions are followed correctly.
Relief for Allergies and Itchiness
Some OTC eye drops may help relieve itchiness, swelling, redness, watering and puffiness caused by allergies which in turn may be caused by seasonal pollens or grasses or other irritating substances.
Itchy eyes tend to become itchier when rubbed due to the histamine released from tissue cells in the eyes. Certain OTC antihistamine eye drops can help relieve itch and help stop the urge to rub. If your symptoms persist you should consult a doctor who will correctly diagnose the exact problem and treat you accordingly.
Also when using eye drops to treat eye infections, make sure not to let the tip of the nozzle touch the eyes to avoid contamination and spread of infection.
Proper Use of Eye Drops
Eye drop use is relatively easy. Simply follow the steps below:
- Keep the head tilted back to allow drops to stay in the eye.
- Keeping the eye open,gently pull lower eyelid downward to allow a space to put the drops.
- Hold the bottle about a centimetre away from the eye to avoid contact then squeeze.
Gently close the eye when you feel the drop enter and then blink several times to spread the drop.
- The same steps are to be followed when using eye ointments.
- Don’t allow any part of the tube touch any part of the eye.
While OTC treatments are quicker, easier and cheaper than visiting an eye doctor for an examination and a prescription, there are certain eye problems that can be serious. If your symptoms are not improving rapidly then you should seek proper guidance and treatment from your G.P. or a medical eye specialist.