Types of Eye Drops – Different Formulas for Different Problems
If you have ever browsed the shelf of a pharmacy you will have noticed the huge choice of eye drops which are currently available. Many of them appear to do the same job. The problem is, how do you know which one to choose? Do you believe you get what you pay for and go for the most expensive or do you save money and start with the cheapest? Choosing the right eye drops goes beyond a pretty label! Here are some general guidelines to help you get the best value for money.
Prescription vs. Over-the-Counter
Over-the-counter eye drops are readily available to the general public. There may be many kinds available, depending upon what you need the eyedrops for. However, for eye infections or problems with vision, it is best to seek a professional opinion before buying a remedy. These more serious problems may need immediate diagnosis and treatment which only an eye doctor can give. The pharmacist is also a valuable source of information and may be able to recommend a particular product if you discuss your requirements with him. Generally eye drops are used for dry eyes, minor irritation, soothing allergies such as hayfever, and mild redness. Using appropriate over-the-counter eye drops can be quicker and cheaper than visiting an eye doctor, but if the problems persist then an appointment may be necessary. Not all over-the-counter eye drops are safe for use with contact lenses, so if you wear contacts, consult your eye doctor or pharmacist before putting any drops in your eyes, unless the drops are specifically labeled as contact-safe.
Some eye drops are only available with a prescription. These are more specialized products, such as antibiotic eyedrops which may be prescribed for bacterial infections, glaucoma or after eye surgery. Here the choice is made for you by the doctor. Prescription eye drops can only be obtained from a pharmacy when specifically prescribed by a doctor.
Liquid or Gel?
For long term problems you may need a gel or ointment rather than liquid eyedrops. As gels can cause blurred vision for a time after being applied, it is best to use them before going to sleep. Some gels do become liquid upon contact with the eye. If you need to use a gel during the day, make sure your vision is clear before driving or doing other tasks which require clear vision.
Preservative Free Eye Drops
Preservatives are added to eye drops in order to inhibit bacterial growth and keep them safe until used. Those with sensitive eyes or allergies may experience irritation, soreness and redness as a reaction to the preservative, completely countering the reason for using them!
Preservative-free eye drops will overcome this problem. They are usually supplied in single dose tubes so that they can be used once and then discarded. Once exposed to the elements, without preservatives, bacteria may develop in the solution causing more problems. These individual portions of preservative-free eye drops will be more expensive as they require more packaging and may be around 50% more costly for the same total amount. However eye drops are not a high cost item. It is better to pay more and avoid complications if you are likely to react to preservatives.
Eye Drops for Dry Eyes
Dry eyes can be caused by many things including the environment, eye surgery, fatigue and computer use. The wind, sun, dry atmosphere in an airplane or being dehydrated can all lead to dry eyes. Long-term dryness can be caused by hormonal changes like menopause, or as a side effect of taking other medications including diuretics and antidepressants.
Relief is simple with the use of lubricating eye drops, also sometimes known as artificial tears. These eye drops work by adding various tear elements to those already in your eyes, making them function better. Try to avoid decongestant eyedrops for this condition. Although they are great for the purpose for which they are intended, such as red eyes, they do cause dry eyes so will only exacerbate your dry eye problem.
Eye Drops for Redness
Red eyes can be caused by tiredness, allergy or infection. You may need to consult an eye doctor to address the underlying problem. Decongestant eye drops are made specifically for this problem. They work by shrinking the blood vessels and making the eyes look whiter but they may be masking a more serious problem. The eye can also become dependent upon the eyedrops, forcing you to use more and more. They may also cause the pupils to dilate. It is best to tackle the cause; tiredness can be remedied and allergens can be bathed and washed out with water.
Eye Drops for Itchiness
Itchy eyes may be caused by seasonal allergies, and rubbing them will release histamine which will only make them itchier. Specially formulated antihistamine eyedrops such as Alaway or Zaditor will give relief.
Eye Drops for Infection
If the eye is crusty or produces discharge, the cause is likely an eye infection such as pink eye (conjunctivitis). Lubricating eye drops may bring temporary relief, but make sure you do not touch the eye with the dropper or you will spread the infection. If the infection does not clear or improve in a day or two, it may be a bacterial infection which will require antibiotic eye drops. These are only available by prescription from an eye doctor.
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