Potential Risks of Using Over the Counter Eye Drops for Dry Eye

Although eye drops are often one of the first lines of treatments recommended for treating and relieving the effects of dry eye, there are some potential risks that users should be aware of when purchasing them over the counter. Here’s what you need to know about over-the-counter eye drops for dry eyes and the potential risks of using them.

What are over-the-counter eye drops for dry eye?

Over-the-counter eye drops for dry eyes are designed to replicate natural tear film and provide a lubricating effect that relieves many of the symptoms associated with dry eyes. Since they are available without a prescription, you can easily buy them online, from drug stores and other retail outlets without obtaining the advice of an ophthalmic professional. The trouble with this is that you aren’t necessarily aware of the potential risks and complications that can occur, especially if you don’t administer them exactly as recommended.

There are primarily two types of over-the-counter eye drops. These are those with preservatives and those without them.

Eyedrops with preservatives

As their name suggests, eyedrops with preservatives have a longer shelf life. This often makes them cheaper and more conveniently available. However, the chemicals that preserve them for longer can also be irritating to the eyes. For this reason, professionals recommend that you try and limit the number of times that you use them during the day. If you need to apply them more than 3 or 4 times, you should consider preservative-free eye drops instead.

Preservative-free eyedrops

Since these eyedrops don’t contain preservatives, you will need to watch their shelf life and replace them when required. They are also usually supplied in single-dose vials meaning that you need to dispose of the vial after each application. However, users generally find them more comfortable, and they are the type most recommended for people with severe dry eyes and who need to use them more than 4 times in a 24-hour period.

putting in eye drops for dry eyes

What are the risks associated with the use of over-the-counter eye drops?

As with any medication, there are some risks associated with the use of over-the-counter eye drops for dry eyes. The main risks are that the eyedrop bottle has been tampered with or become contaminated. The tip of eyedrop vials can become contaminated if it touches another surface, and any harmful bacteria could be passed into your eye if the two then make contact. Loose safety seals can also fall into eyes and cause soreness and even mild abrasions.

As with other medications, there are a range of side effects that may occur. These include:

  • Allergic reactions, such as skin rash, itching, hives, swelling of the eyes, face, lips, or tongue
  • Temporary changes in your vision
  • Itching, watering, and redness of the eyes that gets worse or that persists for more than 72 hours
  • Significant eye pain

You can minimize the likelihood of experiencing any complications from the use of over-the-counter eye drops by making sure that you take them exactly as directed, and by obtaining advice from a licensed eye doctor or pharmacist before starting treatment.

For more information and advice about the potential risks of using over-the-counter eye drops for dry eyes, please contact our eyecare experts today at 718-565-2020.