Whether you are experiencing irritation from dry eyes for the first time, or have been suffering for many years, one of the mainstays of your management will be some form of eye drop. Depending upon where you are in the world, who you speak to or what emphasis the manufacturer wants to put on a specific range you may hear products for dry eyes referred to as:
Don't be confused, all these terms are interchangeable.
Now that we have that settled, the confusing part really does start. How to choose the best product for you from the 100s on the market. There is no easy answer to this and some trial and error will be necessary. We hope we can give you some pointers to help you distinguish between different products and work out why some may or may not be more suitable for you.
Eye drops to help lubricate the surface of the eyes have been around for many years and over that time their function, form and uses have evolved. Initially they were usually only available on prescription from your doctor and some older types still are. Newer products tend to be licensed in a different way so can usually be bought over the counter.
Eye drops need to be kept sterile and this can be achieved either using preservatives (traditional and 'soft') or novel bottles that do not let microbes into the products.
In an ideal world all eye drops should either only use a ‘soft’ preservative or be completely preservative-free.
In addition to the lubricant, products may also include a number of other ingredients thought to be beneficial to the eye in different ways. These include:
There are a number of other features that vary from one product to another.
You can use eye drops as often as necessary through the day, for example every hour, although every few hours is usually sufficient with newer products. It is better to use the drops to prevent discomfort rather then when it occurs. So don't wait until your eye is sore before putting more drops in. Remember if you do use drops regularly, choose a preservative-free version.
Finally, if an eye drop doesn't seem to be helping do not give up. Ensure you are following the advice you have been given, using them often enough and if necessary choose another with a different lubricant, preservative or other ingredient. It can take a bit of trial and error to find the drop that is right for you.
We hope you find this guide useful and the filters we have included on our website will help you narrow down your choice of eye drops based on some or all of these criteria.
If you want to know what else you can do to help your dry eyes, read our eye health information page 'About Dry Eyes'.