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How Often Should You Use Eye Drops for Dry Eyes?

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Young man against a grey background holding up a bottle of eye drops between his two fingers and smiling

When you’re suffering from dry eyes, artificial tears or eye drops can provide short-term relief. You can use eye drops several times a day. However, it depends on the type of eye drops you’re using. Eye drops are available with preservatives and without preservatives or as a prescription from an eye doctor.

If your dry eyes are unrelenting and interrupting your quality of life, visit the doctors at Eye Rx for a dry eye appointment.

How Can Eye Drops Help Relieve Dry Eye?

Eye drops can help dry eyes by mimicking natural tears and temporarily relieving irritating dry eye symptoms. Artificial tears add lubrication to the eye, as well as:

  • Reduce friction to the cornea, the surface of the eye
  • Soothe inflammation
  • Diminish swelling and redness

Using eye drops can be helpful in certain circumstances, including:

  • In windy, dry, and smoky places
  • As eye strain symptoms are developing
  • When you take certain medications, such as antihistamines or antidepressants

Over-the-counter eye drops often include substances that help hold onto moisture, lubricants, and electrolytes, but some have preservatives that can affect your eye’s comfort.

Types of Eye Drops: Preservatives vs. No Preservatives

Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops are available with or without preservatives. But what’s the difference?

Preservatives are added to eye drops to extend their shelf life and prevent the growth of bacteria. If your dry eye symptoms cause you to rely heavily on lubricating eye drops, choose a preservative-free option. The chemicals in preservatives can irritate the eyes after long-term use.

Typically, you can use eye drops with preservatives up to 4 times daily, but any more than that can leave your eyes feeling uncomfortable.

Drops without preservatives come in single-use containers; after you use one, you throw it away. If you have moderate to severe dry eye and use artificial tears more than 4 times daily, drops without preservatives are gentler for your eyes.

Young woman pulling her lower eyelid down to use eye drops on her left eye.

How to Use Eye Drops

To make the most of your drops and maintain good hygiene, you should do the following:

  • Wash your hands before opening the bottle or touching your eyes
  • Tilt your head backward and pull the lower eyelid down with your finger
  • With the other hand, hold the bottle above your eye and squeeze out the directed number of drops
  • Don’t touch the tip of the bottle to your eye or eyelid to avoid contamination
  • One applied, keep your eyes closed for a short period and put light pressure on your tear duct to prevent the liquid from draining
  • Avoid rubbing your eyes

Can You Use Eye Drops Too Often?

To avoid discomfort or eye irritation, check with your optometrist before using eye drops or artificial tears, especially if you wear contact lenses. At Eye Rx, we can make recommendations based on the severity of your dry eye and its sensitivity, and find out if other eye conditions could be a factor.

You should always follow the directions outlined on the package of your eye drops. If you’re using prescription eye drops with antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to encourage tear production, only use the drops as directed by your optometrist.

Other Dry Eye Treatments

If you’re constantly relying on lubricating eye drops throughout the day, it may be time to try more effective treatment methods to ease dry eyes.

Intense Light Pulsed Therapy

Meibomian gland dysfunction is a common cause of dry eye disease. The oil-producing glands can become blocked with hardened oil, preventing the production of healthy tears. Intense pulsed light therapy (IPL) is a treatment that can help treat dry eyes due to meibomian gland dysfunction.

IPL therapy is a non-invasive treatment for dry eyes. It is a relatively new treatment, but it has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms and improving tear film quality.

The benefits of IPL therapy for dry eyes include:

  • Reduces symptoms of dry eyes, such as burning, stinging, itching, and blurred vision
  • Improves tear film quality
  • Reduces inflammation in the eyelids
  • Is a non-invasive and relatively painless procedure
  • Has few side effects

Meibomian Gland Expression

For moderate to severe cases of meibomian gland dysfunction, expressing the gland of blockages is a classic and effective treatment for dry eye. Our optometrists begin by gently warming the eye to help liquify clogging oil buildup, and then we use forceps to apply pressure to the lids to drain the meibomian glands.

Find Dry Eye Relief at Eye Rx

Take dry eyes seriously and don’t suffer through uncomfortable symptoms or cover them up with lubricating eye drops. If you’re not finding genuine relief from your dry eye symptoms, the optometrists at Eye Rx can try effective in-office treatments to deliver long-term improvement of dry eye symptoms.

Schedule an appointment in Chevy Chase or Washington, D.C., to explore dry eye treatments with our dedicated doctors.

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Written by Eye Rx

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