If you have dry eyes or itchy eyes, there are a number of over-the-counter (OTC) products to choose from. Most are inexpensive and provide fast relief, but the relief is short term. If you have a chronic problem, it’s best to see your ophthalmologist first so that more serious eye conditions can be ruled out. It’s possible that your eye doctor may recommend a combination of prescription and OTC eye drops.
If you do head to the drugstore, here are five over-the-counter medications to boost your eye care regimen.
1- Dry Eye Drops (Ex. Refresh, Visine Tears, Systane)
Dry eye relief drops lubricate and moisturize the eyes to reduce symptoms. They work best for dry eye caused by wind, smoke, medications, reduced tear production, or staring at a computer screen all day. More serious cases of dry eye may require a prescription from your eye doctor.
Dry eye relief drops are made in different formulas, and some even come as gels or ointments. These options tend to be more effective than eye drops, though they do cause temporary blurring and are best used at night.
2- Red Eye Drops (Ex. Clear Eyes, Visine Original)
The purpose of red eye drops is to reduce redness in the eyes. However, these drops are only intended to be used on an as-needed and short-term basis. Most products that are marketed for red eyes contain a decongestant that constricts the blood vessels. Regular use of decongestants can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes or thyroid disease.
3- Itchy Eyes from Allergies (Ex. Visine-A, Opcon-A)
Allergy eye drops usually contain an antihistamine and a decongestant to reduce redness, irritation, and itchiness. The drops are most effective at controlling symptoms from pet dander, pollen, and dust. Because some drops contain decongestants, you must exercise caution when using them. If your allergies are severe, your doctor may recommend an oral antihistamine.
4- Eye Wash for Irritated Eyes (Ex. Bausch and Lomb, Rexall)
Eye wash solution removes foreign particles, such as air pollutants and pollen, from the eyes. The product is safe for most people and helps control symptoms like irritation, stinging, and itching. For those who have allergies or eye irritation, eye wash can be used daily to prevent the need for medicated eye drops.
5- Eye Vitamins
If you are at risk for eye disease, your ophthalmologist may recommend taking a supplement to support the optic nerve. There are many vitamins and supplements sold OTC, so talk to your doctor to find out what ingredients are most important. Some vitamin blends reduce inner eye pressure while others support sharper vision.
Over-the-counter eye medications can work great in a pinch – some can even be used long term to properly care for your eyes. If your symptoms linger, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor, right here in NYC, who can recommend a more effective regimen and also rule out possible causes of your symptoms.