Choosing the Right Eye Drops

Choosing the Right Eye DropsEye drop vials

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Buying eye drops sounds like a simple task, but walking down the eyecare aisle at a grocery store can quickly become overwhelming. With so many over the counter products available, it is hard to know what to choose. This blog will explain the differences between some commonly used eye drops and which options the doctors at Mountain View Eye Center recommend. 

Lubricant Eye Drops

Lubricant Eye Drops or Artificial Tears are commonly found in grocery/drug stores. There are a large variety of brands and formulas to choose from. The greatest difference between different kinds of eye drops is that some contain preservatives, while others do not. It is important to choose a preservative free variety of drops, especially if you are using them long term. Preservatives can irritate the eye, causing a rebound effect to already dry, sensitive eyes. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, lubricating eye drops are generally safe to use as often as you need them if they do not have preservatives. Preservative free drops often come in individual vials. They will say clearly on the package that they are formulated without preservatives. Some common brands are: Refresh, Retaine, Thera Tears and Systane.  

Another difference in artificial tears is the active ingredient. These ingredients are formulated to treat different levels of dry eye, from mild to severe. Some will be thicker than others, and may feel sticky or blur vision for a short period of time. The packaging will usually indicate the severity of dry eye that they are formulated to treat. Contact lens wearers may prefer formulas made specifically for use with contact lenses, because they tend to have a minimal blurring effect. One brand made for use with contacts is Blink. 

Lubricant Eye Gel

Lubricant eye gel is similar to lubricant eye drops, but will have a thicker, gel-like consistency. It is available in the form of drops or ointment. Drops will have a thinner, more watery consistency while ointment will be very thick. Ointment is generally indicated for nighttime use, as it will cause vision to be blurry if used while awake. Some common brands of lubricant eye gel include GenTeal, Systane, and Refresh. 

Allergy Eye Drops

Allergy eye drops contain an antihistamine to help control symptoms of allergies such as watery, itchy eyes. They are not indicated for treatment of dry eye. Common brands include Alaway, Patiday, and Zatidor. Prescription drops are also available from an eye doctor if over the counter products do not offer adequate relief. For more information about eye allergies, read our blog Allergies and Your Eyes

Redness Relievers

Redness relievers are often sold as a treatment for dry, irritated eyes, but these drops do very little to treat the symptoms of dry eye and should generally be avoided. They contain ingredients that make eyes appear whiter by constricting blood vessels in the eye.  This may be effective for a short period of time, but will eventually cause a rebound effect, making symptoms worse. Common brands of redness relievers include: Visine, Rohto, and Clear Eyes. One brand that claims to relieve red eyes without a rebound effect is Lumify. Originally formulated for the treatment of glaucoma, this medication uses a different active ingredient that may reduce risks associated with other redness relievers. Red eyes can be a symptom of a serious eye problem such as glaucoma, uveitis, or an eye infection. If this symptom is present, consult with an eye doctor before using over the counter products.


Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. We hope this information helps you to make an informed decision about which eye drops to choose. Most eye drops should be used short term, or under the guidance of an eye doctor. Dry, red, irritated or watery eyes can be symptoms of other eye problems, and should be evaluated by an eye doctor. To schedule an exam, please call or text: (907) 328-2920. If you would like to purchase dry eye products online, please visit our webstore at


Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology Lubricating Eye Drops


Written by: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

Posted in: Alaska Ophthalmology, Dry Eye Syndrome, Eye Doctor in Alaska, Eye Health Guide, Patient Education

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