OTC eye drops offer relief for common eye problems such as dry eyes, allergies, or redness. Without the need for a prescription, they can easily be found in drugstores, online pharmacies, and supermarkets. However, with so many options available, it can be overwhelming and tricky to identify the most suitable one for individual use.
The four most common types of OTC eye drops are artificial tears or lubricating drops, allergy or antihistamine drops, drops for redness relief, and drops for contact lenses.
While these are not the only eye drops that can be found over the counter, it comprises the vast majority of the types of eye drops sold OTC.
Artificial tears and lubricating eye drops are OTC eye drops that help alleviate dry eye symptoms. Dry eyes can cause burning, irritation, and vision problems. These types of eye drops help stabilize the eyes' tear film and offer a smooth surface on the corneas. They are used several times a day in most cases to alleviate dry eye symptoms.
When looking for eye drops for dry eyes, most OTC drops advertise either artificial tears or lubricating drops on their package and list several agents as the active ingredient.
Eye doctors are in the best position to recommend the best OTC eye drops based on a comprehensive eye health exam. Certain OTC eye drops contain no preservatives, and others have Omega fatty acids as active ingredients that can improve the eye's tear film.
Eye allergies frequently accompany environmental and seasonal allergies that cause red, itchy eyes. While specific triggers can cause some allergies, many aren't specific and only require symptom relief.
Several OTC eye drops manage eye allergy symptoms and is known as antihistamine drops. Though their active ingredients vary considerably, all of them contain an antihistamine or mast cell stabilizer.
Using the OTC antihistamine as directed usually stabilizes the eyes, and redness and itching subside. If symptoms persist after using OTC antihistamine eye drops, your eye doctor can recommend other treatments that require a prescription.
OTC eye drops offer relief for red eyes but isn't necessarily useful in treating underlying conditions. Such drops typically have different active ingredients, and overuse of such drops can cause dependency or worsen underlying symptoms.
Schedule an appointment with your eye doctor if you have persistent redness.
OTC drops for contact lenses require special care. Specific eye drops are available with no harmful preservatives or other chemicals designed to work with contact lenses.
These OTC drops are often labeled "contact lens safe," "preservative-free," or "re-wetting drops."
Consult your eye doctor if you have concerns and ensure any OTC eye drop used is approved for use with contacts.
OTC eye drops cater to a broad range of eye problems, and most eye problems have a corresponding OTC solution. However, if a condition persists or worsens, seek professional medical counsel, precisely an eye professional to accurately diagnose the underlying issues and offer appropriate advice.