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Best Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

A young man applying eye drops to his dry eyes.

You don’t need us to tell you dry eyes can disrupt your day. It might sound like a minor problem, but dry eye disease can cause discomfort and affect your quality of life. But it doesn’t have to!

Your optometrist is a fantastic resource for dry eye solutions. They can examine your symptoms and help determine a treatment plan to manage your dry eye. One of the most popular dry eye treatments is eye drops, and though you have many options, we’re here to help you decide which one can work for you. 

The best eye drops for dry eyes depend on your symptoms and lifestyle, but your choice should always bring hydration back to your vision.

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

While many people experience dry eyes from time to time, dry eye disease is more than just a fleeting discomfort—it’s a chronic condition that can significantly impact your ocular health.

At its core, dry eye disease is an issue of imbalance. Your eyes rely on the tear film to provide constant lubrication, protection, and nourishment to their surface. This tear film is made of water, oils, mucus, and antibodies

Dry eye disease is a dysfunction of this tear film in 1 of 2 ways:

  • Aqueous deficiency dry eye occurs when your eyes fail to produce enough tears.
  • Evaporative dry eye occurs when your tears are of low quality and evaporate too quickly.

Many factors can contribute to the development of dry eye disease, including:

  • Medications like antihistamines, antidepressants, and blood pressure drugs
  • Aging
  • Hormonal changes
  • Environmental factors, such as dry air, wind, and smoke
  • Medical conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and thyroid disorders
  • Long-term contact lens use
  • Laser eye surgery

Dry Eye Symptoms

Dry eye symptoms vary, but they often include:

  • A feeling of dryness or discomfort in the eyes
  • Redness and swelling of the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurry vision
  • Excess tears
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Discomfort while wearing contact lenses

One job tears have is washing away dust and debris. Dry eye disease can leave your cornea, the clear front dome, unprotected and prone to damage.

Types of Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

While dry eyes can be frustrating, eye drops and other lubricants can help alleviate symptoms.

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears are the most common eye drops used to relieve dry eyes. They supplement your natural tears with a lubricating formula to help alleviate dryness, burning, and redness.

Some artificial tears contain preservatives that can help keep bacteria from growing inside the bottle, but they can be harsh on sensitive eyes. So, if you have an eye condition or an allergy, it’s usually best to choose a preservative-free formula.

Some eye drops could also damage your contact lenses, so always check your drops to make sure they’re compatible.

Prescription Drops

If artificial tears don’t provide enough relief, you should talk to your eye doctor about prescription eye drops.

Prescription formulas are often stronger than over-the-counter drops and can provide longer-lasting relief for those with severe dry eye symptoms.

Some prescription drops also contain anti-inflammatory agents that can help reduce swelling and irritation in the eye. However, these drops can be expensive and may require regular visits to your eye doctor for follow-ups.

Lubricating Gels

Lubricating gels can also help alleviate dry eye symptoms. These formulas are thicker than artificial tears and are designed to stay in the eye longer. 

Lubricating gels are often used at night since they can cause blurry vision. However, they’re a good option for those with severe dry eye symptoms or who have difficulty wearing contacts.

Other Dry Eye Products

Eye drops alone can be effective for many people, but there are other options for treating dry eyes at home. Some may work better for certain types of dry eyes, while some work better when paired with other dry eye treatments.

Eyelid Cleansing Wipes

One potential cause of dry eye is an excess of oils and debris on the eyelids and lashes that block the meibomian glands. Meibomian glands produce the oils in the tear film that keeps tears from evaporating too quickly. Eyelid cleansing wipes can gently remove debris from the eyelids and smooth the skin, making it easier for the oil to reach the eyes.

Warm Eye Compresses

Eye compresses apply gentle heat to your eyelids to help improve blood flow and stimulate oil production, leading to increased lubrication and a reduction in dryness and irritation.

Omega-3 Supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce the inflammation that can contribute to dry eyes. 

Fish are a significant source of omega-3s, but you can find omega-3 supplements in many forms, including capsules, gummies, and liquids. Be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any new supplement, as they may interact with other medications or health conditions.

Close-up of a woman undergoing a slit-lamp exam.

Advanced Relief from Dry Eye Symptoms

If your dry eyes are too much to deal with alone, your optometrist can help you find relief. At Eyes on Plainville, we offer dry eye therapies designed to address the root problem of your condition and provide effective relief. We personalize our approach to determine the right treatment for you and focus on science-backed methods.

Let’s leave dry eye disease in the rearview and put you on the path to relief. Book your appointment today!

Dr. Sabrina Gaan

Written by Dr. Sabrina Gaan

Dr. Sabrina Gaan is the owner of Eyes on Plainville in Plainville, Massachusetts. She has a particular interest in myopia control and dry eye.

She obtained her bachelor’s degree in Biology from San Jose State University while earning her license as a dispensing optician. She decided to move to MA after her VA rotation in Jamaica Plain.

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