Eye drops are big business, as Americans annually spend billions of dollars on this seemingly simple lubrication. So when your eyes itch or water, how do you select the right eye drop for your specific needs? When you walk down the aisle of your favorite pharmacy to select a product, how can you possibly know which one is the best solution? Let’s begin by diagnosing your eye symptoms.

Over-the-counter eye drops are as numerous as eye symptoms. Are you suffering from allergies? Are you experiencing red-eye for longer than one day? Do you just need eye lubrication? Should you be choosing something on the shelf at your local pharmacy, or should you be calling your eye doctor?

Drops for Red, or Itchy Eyes

The most common reason people use eye drops is because they are experiencing red or externally-triggered irritation. There are a number of reasons that eyes react to their environment. Many suffer eye strain or dryness from prolonged computer use, allergies, a series of late nights out and other problems. For these situations, choose eye drops that contain antihistamines, as they not only help to soothe itchy or red eyes, but they also protect eyes from pollen.

Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

Some eye drops on the shelf are labeled as artificial tears. These types of eye drops provide relief for dry eyes. While it could be caused by activities like staring for long periods at the computer screen, many health problems also have dryness as a symptom; if the discomfort persists, it is wise to talk to your doctor about the causes.

If you suffer from a dry eye syndrome it is best to avoid decongestant eye drops. Decongestant eye drops are normally marketed as relief for red eyes. While decongestants can make your eyes look less red and tired, they can worsen your eye symptoms. Decongestants have a drying effect on your eyes.

While decongestant eye drops are effective at getting rid of redness, be mindful that they can mask a serious deep-rooted problem. It's always best to first consult with your eye doctor to diagnose the cause of your dry or red eyes. Some dry- eye conditions are long –term. In these long-term instances, it is best to use a gel or ointment. Be aware that sometimes gels for dry eyes can cause temporary blurry vision. Follow the instructions on the eye drop package.

Eye Drops for Pain, Swelling or Discharge

If your eyes are swollen or are creating a morning time discharge, you may have signs of an eye infection. If this is the case, you should consult your eye doctor. You may need an eye-drop prescription, rather than self-medicating your eye problem by yourself. Depending on the eye condition being treated, your doctor will know if you need an eye drop that contains, steroids, antibiotics, antifungal, or topical anesthetics.

Eye Drops for Contact Lenses

There are many eye drops that exist solely for the sake of rewetting the contact lenses that are already being utilized. As an added bonus, they often can flush out any debris that get trapped underneath the lens. There are plenty of contacts that are self-lubricating, manufactured by top brands like Acuvue and Air Optix.

How Do I Properly Use Eye Drops?

Applying eye drops might be trickier than you expect. There is more to the proper routine of administering eye drops, then just squeezing the eye drop bottle. Knowing and understanding the correct application procedure of eye drops will help insure success in gaining eye relief. Below please find a list of steps to follow to improve your eye drop application routine.

  • Wash your hands to prevent any germs from entering your eye.
  • Gently pull your eyelid down and drop your head back. Look up.
  • Hold the bottle close to your eye, but do not let it touch your eyeball.
  • Without touching the eye, squeeze the eye drops into the bottom section of your lower eyelid.
  • Close your eyes and keep them shut for one to three minutes. Find further information on your eye drop packaging.

If you have questions about this article, bring it with you to your next doctor visit.

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