Can Eye Drops Damage Your Eyes?

Dry, red, or irritated eyes seem to scream for the instant relief that eye drops seem to provide. Popular redness relief eye drops seem harmless enough. This can be true when these eye drops are used temporarily, but routine use over extended periods of time could lead to unintentional eye health harm.

Common Uses of Eye Drops

Whether you need to soothe irritated eyes or treat an infection, eye drops are a great way to find relief. Some uses include: 

 - Can be used as artificial tears for dry eyes or in rewetting and lubrication for contact lenses. 

 - Infection control. Can provide pain relief before and after eye surgery and laser eye surgery and can even include steroids for herpes eye infection. 

 - Can combat allergies using antihistamines and also manage pressure inside the eye to treat glaucoma. 

 - Muscle relaxant. Can help with lazy eye. 

What Do Redness Relief Eye Drops Do to Your Eyes?

The active ingredients in most redness relief eye drops is Tetrahydrozoline or Naphazoline. Both drugs reduce the redness in your eyes through the process of vasoconstriction, which is the artificial clamping down of the superficial blood vessels on the eye’s surface.

The blood vessels on the eye’s surface often dilate and increase the blood flow in response to an irritation that is affecting the surface of the eye. When those blood vessels are clamped down, they interfere with the body’s natural self-care and self-healing process.

With prolonged use, the vasoconstrictor effect of the redness relief drops can cause the blood vessels to dilate even larger than before the eye drops were used. This usually cues a person to use the redness relief drops again. This vicious cycle will perpetuate and may eventually lead a person to visit an eye doctor.

How Can I Use Redness Relief Eye Drops Safely?

Redness relief eye drops come with warning labels that advise users not to overuse the product. The warning says, “Stop using and ask a doctor if: you experience eye pain, changes in vision, continued redness or irritation of the eye condition worsens or persists for more than 72 hours.” Based on the warnings, if you choose to use redness relief eye drops, consider using them for one to two days. This warning labels hint at the short-term use of the product. Recognize that redness relief eye drops are not meant for daily use or long-term use. If you have an ongoing issue with red eyes, visiting your eye doctor might be the safer course of action.

Are Other Types of Eye Drops Safe to Use?

There are eye drops that are used to rewet dry eyes for contact wearers. There are medicated eye drops that are used to clear up bacterial, viral or parasitic infections. The best rule of thumb is to follow the warning labels and to reach out to your eye doctor if you have issues with redness, dry eye or irritation.  

How Can I Safely Use Eye Drops?

If you are going to use eye drops of any kind, here is a list of usage tips that can help protect your eye health:

 - All eye drops bottles should have an intact, sterile seal when you buy them

 - Don't let the applicator touch your eye or anything else

 - Don’t mix eye drops! If you use different types of eye drops, don’t apply them at the same time. Use one of the eye drops first then wait at least five minutes before applying the next type of eye drops

 - Use eye drops as directed by your doctor

 - Pay attention to the warning labels about usage

 - If your eye doctor tells you to throw your eye drops out, follow their medical advice for the sake of your eye health

In short, redness relief eye drops, and eye drops in general are like any drug that you use: they are best used as instructed by a doctor and while following the usage guidelines. Keep in mind: over-the-counter drops and prescription drops are different and should only be used as prescribed. 

If you have questions about whether or not eye drops might be right for you, ask your VSP eye doctor at your next eye exam or call a VSP provider today.

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