Artificial Tears: A Guide to Selecting the Right Drop for You3:41 PM
Is there anything more overwhelming than the artificial tear aisle at your drug store or pharmacy? Take 10 minutes and stake it out if you are curious. You will see poor lost souls wander up and down in frustration, comparing bottle labels that could be written in a foreign language for all they tell you, and then landing on the familiar: Visine. Oh no! Everyone, please let me help you break this terrible cycle of doom.
This time of year, allergies are typically subsiding so the most likely reason that your eyes are red, irritated, itchy, burning, or watery is that they are DRY. Dryness is prevalent in winter due to the lower humidity in the air, and the drying action of heaters in homes, offices, and cars. In mild cases of dryness, usually a good rewetting drop is all you need to get your eyes performing back to their normal standards. But for more persistent and chronic dryness, your doctor's intervention with more aggressive treatment is often required.
1) Are your eyes infrequently dry, red, watery, itchy, burning or irritated? Usually after certain environment exposures (like going for a run in the cold air) or at the end of your day?
- Best Choice: Moisturizing or Lubricating Artificial Tears
- Examples: Systane Ultra, Refresh Optive, Blink Tears, Soothe XP, Theratears
- Dosage: 1 drop in both eyes as needed, up to 4 x a day
You can also use all of these over top of contact lenses.
- Best Choice: Preservative Free Artificial Tears
- Why? Prevents irritation from unwanted preservatives that are toxic to the eye but found in all bottle-stored eye drops
- Examples: Systane Ultra in Vials, Refresh Optive Sensitive, Retaine MGD in individual vials
- Dosage: 1 drop in both eyes as needed, can use as often as you want
3) Do you have crusting of your eyelid, or see white dome-like growths on your eyelid margins near the lash roots? Do your eyes sometimes feel filmy between or after blinking?
- Best Choice: Lipid Based Artificial Tears
- Why? The questions above are aimed at diagnosing Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, the most common cause of dry eye. Click the link to learn more.
- Examples: Refresh Advanced, Systane Balance, Retaine MGD
- Dosage: 1 drop in both eyes as needed, up to 4 x a day (or more with Retaine MGD since it is preservative free)
- Best Choice: Gel Artificial Tears or Ointments
- Why? Gel tear drops are thicker, and will last through the night to rehydrate the eye or protect the eye if your eyelids do not close fully.
- Examples: GenTeal, Systane Gel, Refresh Gel or Celluvisc, Blink Gel, Nighttime ointments
- Dosage: 1 drop in both eyes at bedtime