Dry eyes are a very common eye affliction. The condition can be caused by many different factors. Dry eyes can be part of the aging process or a symptom of another disease.

They can be caused by an overly dry environment or be a side effect of medication such as antihistamines.

Eye drops are often the preferred method of treating dry eyes. There is a variety of prescription and over-the-counter eye drops that a doctor may recommend.


Eye drops
Eye drops are the preferred method of treating dry eyes but some other medications may be used depending on the cause.

There are a number of potential eye drops to consider when treating symptoms of dry eyes. These include:

  • Artificial tears are the most common treatment method and are often available over the counter or online. There are a variety of brand options and it may take some trial and error for people to find the artificial teardrops that work best for them.
  • Cyclosporine is a prescription eye drop designed to help treat certain infections that cause dry eyes. This medication helps the eyes to produce more tears. Typically, it is applied two times a day.
  • Lifitegrast is a small molecule integrin antagonist that reduces T cell-mediated inflammation. It is only available through prescription.
  • Autologous blood serum drops are drops made from a patient’s own blood. These are used in severe cases where a patient’s dry eyes are not responding to other drops or treatment. These drops are created by taking a sample of the person’s blood, removing the red blood cells, and adding a salt solution.

Eye drops may not be enough to fully treat dry eyes depending on the cause. Other medications may be needed to treat underlying conditions that cause dry eyes.

Factors to consider

People considering eye drops for dry eyes should consult with a doctor before trying over-the-counter eye drops. There are some factors to take into consideration when selecting this kind of treatment for dry eyes.

  • People should avoid eye drops designed to remove red from the eye. These are often not meant to exclusively treat dry eye.
  • If a person has glaucoma or another eye disease, over-the-counter medication should only be taken if a doctor recommends it.
  • Different over-the-counter eye drops have different ingredients. Some drops might work well for some people and not as well as well for others.

There are two types of artificial tear drops: one that contains preservatives and one that does not. Some people find that the preservatives irritate their eyes and so they need to use a preservative-free variety.

Causes of dry eyes

The cause of a patient’s dry eyes is one of the most important considerations to be discussed with a doctor. Dry eyes can have many causes. These causes may be environmental, an underlying medical problem, or as a result of medication.

Environmental factors that can cause dry eyes include dry air, dust, prolonged periods of staring at a screen, and other irritants.

If environmental factors are directly responsible for the dry eyes, treating the dry eyes is as simple as taking over-the-counter eye drops or, in more severe cases, prescription drops.

For other people, the dry eyes may be the direct result of a bigger infection. In these cases, people should also manage their underlying disease. The addition of eye drops would be to reduce one of the symptoms.

Another possible cause of dry eye is a side effect of medication being taken. In these cases, a person may want to discuss the discontinuation of the medication that is causing the dry eye. If that is not an option, eye drops can be used to help reduce the occurrence of dry eye.

Possible side effects

Blurred vision
Temporary blurred vision may be a side effect of using eye drops.

Some of the potential side effects of using eye drops to treat dry eye include:

  • increased sensitivity of eyes to light
  • blurred vision
  • watering of eyes
  • redness
  • discomfort or other irritation as a result of the medication
  • matting or stickiness of eyelashes
  • swelling of eyelid

As with any medication, if a person experiences side effects from using drops, they should consult a doctor immediately and stop using them. In general, the side effects of taking eye drops are minimal.

When to see a doctor

It is not uncommon for people to experience dry eyes from time to time. Typically, dry eye symptoms do not last long.

In cases where the symptoms persist for longer than a week or over-the-counter eye drops have had little effect, a person may want to see a doctor.

In prolonged or more severe cases of dry eye, a doctor can help rule out and potentially treat underlying health conditions. They may prescribe prescription eye drops to treat the source of the dry eye or offer advice on how to treat the dry eyes.

Alternative treatments

Although eye drops are the most typical and recommended treatment for dry eye, other treatments are available. For example, some of the medications available in drop form are also available as a gel to help in cases where the eyes get dried out quickly over a period of time.

In some cases, oral medication may help decrease dry eyes. These medications are often antibiotics that target the swelling of the eyelid that may be interfering with natural oil creation.

Additional medical options include:

  • an eye insert that slowly releases a substance that lubricates the eyes over time
  • closing the tear ducts
  • special contacts
  • eye therapies

People with dry eye may also consider changes to their environment and habits. Often, this can consist of adding a humidifier to the home or office to help increase moisture in the air.

Other suggestions include blinking more often, avoiding prolonged hours of staring at an electronic screen, or switching to glasses from contact lenses.