We wouldn’t blame you if the recent bacterial outbreak linked to several brands of over-the-counter eye drops has stopped you from using them. The news last winter was scary: Dozens of people were infected by the drug-resistant bacteria, including at least four patients who died and others who were blinded. Though the tainted products were recalled, they left behind uncertainty and hesitation.
But eye experts would urge you to reconsider. “I definitely still recommend eye drops every day and take them myself for dry eye,” says Christopher Starr, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and an associate professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
The fact is, eye drops are one of the most effective remedies for dry eye. For a mild case, over-the-counter eye drops may be all you need, although your eye doctor can offer more treatment options. Here’s your step-by-step guide to getting relief.
Take dry eyes seriously
When your eyes are working correctly, they will constantly produce tears that keep the surface of the eye moist and comfortable. When you have dry eye, you either don’t produce enough tears or your tears evaporate too quickly because your oil glands are clogged. Left untreated, dry eye can lead to an infection, damage to your cornea or vision loss. An eye doctor can diagnose what’s causing your symptoms.
1. Try eye drops and ointments
Look for eye drops that say “lubrication” or “artificial tears,” not “redness relief.” Ointments and gels provide longer relief, but use only at night since they can blur vision.
If you need drops more than four times a day, switch to preservative-free ones that come in single-use vials, or see your doctor for prescription drops.