Dry eye syndrome is a common condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly, leading to discomfort, irritation, and even visual disturbances. The unpleasant condition can affect people of all ages. Fortunately, there are various treatments available to alleviate dry eyes, and one of the most common and effective ones is artificial tears.
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What are Artificial Tears?
Artificial tears are a type of eye drops that mimic the natural tears produced by the lacrimal glands in the eyes. They contain a combination of water, salt, and other ingredients such as electrolytes, lubricants, and preservatives to hydrate and soothe the eyes.
The eye drops come in different formulations, including solutions, gels, and ointments, each with varying thickness, viscosity, and duration of action.
How do Artificial Tears Work?
Artificial tears work by supplementing insufficient natural tears, improving the quality and quantity of the tear film, and relieving the symptoms of dry eyes. They also provide relief if you experience discomfort while wearing or after taking out your contact lenses.
These types of eye drops:
Create a protective layer on the surface of the eyes
Reduce friction when blinking
Prevent damage to the cornea and conjunctiva
Flush away debris, allergens, and irritants that may accumulate on the eye's surface
Decrease inflammation and infection risk
Feel free to use artificial tears as often as needed, depending on the severity and frequency of your dry eye symptoms. They are safe for most people and do not require a prescription. Although it is advisable to consult an eye doctor before using them, especially if you have a history of eye allergies, infections, or other eye problems.
What are the Benefits of Artificial Tears?
Artificial tears offer several benefits for people with dry eyes, including the relief of symptoms such as itching, burning, stinging, redness, and blurred vision. They also grant protection of the eye surface from environmental factors such as wind, smoke, and dry air can exacerbate the condition.
Furthermore, these eye drops reduce dry eye glare and halos and aid in the prevention of infections by washing away bacteria and other pathogens. If you wear contacts, there is an additional benefit. That is the enhancement of contact lens comfort by improving the tear film's quality and reducing friction between the lens and the eye.
Last but not least, if you spend a lot of time staring at a screen (at home or at work), you might suffer from eye strain or computer vision syndrome (CVS). Moisturizing teardrops can bring you just the relief you need and help you move along with your day with less discomfort and dryness.
What are the Types of Artificial Tears?
There are several types of artificial tears available. Choosing the right one depends on the severity and type of dry eye symptoms.
Lubricating artificial tears
These are the most common type of artificial tears and contain a blend of water, salt, and lubricants such as glycerin, propylene glycol, or polyethylene glycol. They are ideal for mild to moderate dry eye symptoms and are available in different viscosity levels, from thin drops to thicker gels.
Preservative-free artificial tears
These are artificial tears that do not contain any preservatives to irritate the eyes, especially with frequent use. This type of eye drop is perfect for people with sensitive eyes or those who need to use eye drops frequently.
Artificial tears for severe dry eye
Artificial tears may contain a higher concentration of lubricants or other ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid or carboxymethylcellulose. They are known to provide longer-lasting relief for severe dry eye symptoms and are usually prescribed by an ophthalmologist after an eye examination.
Gel and ointment artificial tears
These are artificial tears that have a thicker consistency than drops. Gels and ointments stay in the eye longer, providing prolonged lubrication and protection. This is an excellent option for those who suffer from severe dry eye or those who have difficulty using drops.
How to Use Artificial Tears?
Using artificial tears is relatively straightforward. But it is essential to follow the instructions on the label or the recommendations of your eye doctor or pharmacist and use the correct amount of eye drops. Too many drops could overload your eyes, making them too watery, while too few drops may not provide sufficient relief.
Here are some general guidelines for using artificial tears:
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water
Remove the cap of the eye drop bottle or tube
Tilt your head back slightly while looking up
Use one hand to pull down your lower eyelid to create a small pouch
Use the other hand to squeeze the prescribed amount of eye drops into the pouch
Release your lower eyelid and close your eyes gently for a few seconds to allow the eye drops to spread evenly across the surface of your eyes
Wipe away any excess drops around your eyes with a clean tissue or cloth
Repeat the process for the other eye
When dropping artificial tears, avoid touching the tip of the eye drop bottle or tube to prevent contamination, and store them at room temperature in a dry, clean place.
How Often to Use Artificial Tears?
Use artificial tears as often as needed, but not more than recommended.
The moisturizing eyedrops provide temporary relief from dry eye symptoms, but they do not cure the underlying cause of dryness. If you use artificial tears too often or too much, you may wash away your natural tears and make your eyes drier.
In some cases, you may also develop tolerance or dependence. So in time, you may need more drops to get the same effect. The frequency and dosage depend on your individual condition and the type of eyedrops you use. Generally, you should not use them more than three times a day unless your eye doctor says otherwise.
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How to Store Your Eye Drops?
Rule number one, store all eye drops properly and discard them after their expiration date.
Always keep artificial tears in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Do not freeze or refrigerate them as this may affect their quality and effectiveness.
Check the expiration date on the bottle or vial and do not use them if they are past their shelf life. If you use preservative-free eye drops, discard the remaining portion of each vial after one use. If you use preserved artificial tears, discard the bottle after one month of opening or follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Artificial tears are a safe and effective treatment for dry eyes, offering relief from discomfort and irritation. They come in different formulations and are available without a prescription. However, just like any medical product, it is best to consult your eye doctor if you have persistent or severe dry eye symptoms or if you experience any side effects from using artificial tears.
Learn more about your eye health and how to take care of your eyes in the Ophthalmology24 blog.
All medical facts and statements are checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.