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January 16, 2009

Understanding Over-The-Counter Eye Drops

There are many eye drops that are available over-the-counter in most pharmacies and supermarkets. Though most are soothing, they are usually unnecessary, since the normal eye is able to take care of itself. There may still be times when they are helpful for mild irritations and allergies.

Over-the-counter drops primarily fall into three categories: decongestants, lubricants, and eyewashes. within these groups, most brands have the same basic ingredients. Thus, the most expensive product usually offers little advantage over less expensive products.

You should not treat a red, scratchy eye for more than a day or two, as these symptoms could suggest a more serious problem, for which a delay in seeing an ophthalmologist could result in permanent vision loss.

Decongestants whiten the eye. Eyes become "bloodshot" when the blood vessels in the outer membrane (conjunctiva) dilate. Cause may include: allergies to pollen, irritation from smoke and pollution, and tiredness after prolonged reading.

If the cause of bloodshot eyes is not serious, decongestants will make them look and feel better by shrinking the dilated blood vessels. Some decongestants also contain antihistamine which will relieve itching. The effect usually last two to four hours.

Decongestant eye drops should not be used more than three to four times a day. Excess may cause "rebound"- the eyes become even more red and irritated when the drops are stopped. Decongestant eye drops may also exacerbate some forms of glaucoma.

Lubricating drops, also known as artificial tears, provide moisture and lubrication to outer surfaces of the eyes to relieve symptoms of dryness and irritation. They are especially useful for people suffering from dry eye syndrome. These drops do not shrink the blood vessels, and may be used more frequently than the decongestant eye drops. Some people may develop allergies to preservatives in the drop. Should this occur, preservative-free drops are available.

Eye washes, sometimes called "collyrium" drops, do not decongest or lubricate. They contain various compounds such as boric acid and methanol, which may sooth the eye. These drops have very little use, and are usually not recommended.

When in doubt, contact your eye care professional for more information.


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Greetings all.

Concerning lubricant eye drops: for years I usually apply them by tilting my head back, putting a drop or two directly in to the eye as I look straight up. My question is this - is this an OK method or should one look up why pulling down below the eye before placing eye drops to the area. Maybe the latter method is only for medicating eye drops. I'm not sure. I just read that on another site.

BTW, is it ok to apply lubricating eye drops after ones eyes are dilated after an eye exam.

Thank you in advance. I appreciate an forthcoming advice.

Either method is OK. I personally find it easier to pull the lower lid out and apply the drop into the pocket created.

It is also fine to use lubrication drops following a dilated exam.

withdrawal of preservatives from ophthalmic preparations to Preserve our Eyes not Our Drops!

We are three patient associations: Keratos (http://keratos.free.fr/), focusing on ocular surface diseases and lachrymal dysfunctions, Gêniris (http://associationgeniris.free.fr/) concentrating on aniridia and other rare diseases of the iris and Amalyste (http://www.amalyste.fr/) who supports Stevens-Johnson’s sufferers. We gather members from France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Norway and the UK.

It is commonly accepted, on the basis of independent medical literature and studies, that the systematic use of preservatives in eyedrops, such as benzalkonium chloride (a toxic detergent, although by far not the only culprit), has a serious deleterious effect for all chronic diseases that require the frequent instillation of eyedrops (even in originally healthy corneas).

Medical literature is very abundant on this matter, and ophthalmologists themselves are more and more aware of such – at first frequently insidious - dangers and advise their patients to avoid using preserved eyedrops and prefer non-preserved options. Unfortunately, these are not always available.

Therefore, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that preservatives have forced many of our members to suspend their many treatments due to severe allergic reactions or intolerances, the apparition of punctuate keratitis (a very frequent symptom of preservative use) or corneal erosions, irritations and other lachrymal disturbances. Beyond the more manifest intolerances, it is the cytotoxic effect that we fear the most, considering that it will leave most members with either an inadequate therapeutic option or a deteriorated cornea. Again, medical literature confirms the experience of our members.

Our treatments are directly impacted by the availability non-preserved options or lack thereof. This is clearly unacceptable considering that these risks may be totally avoided by the use of special containers or single use vials. Please consider reading more on what exactly is at stake on the following website: http://preservative.free.fr/

Some laboratories have taken the necessary steps to produce non-preserved ophthalmic preparations, whereas some others still don’t abide by what should be the first rule in medicine first do not harm (especially considering that there are alternatives).

Please ban preservatives used in ophthalmic preparations for the sake of our eyes. In the meanwhile, medical authorities should impose the obligation of producing sufficient non-preserved eyedrops alternatives for each indication or molecule in order to provide alternatives for all patients.

Please help us by signing this petition:

Hi i would like to find out which products in particular will whiten the sclera of the eye if i have a brownish appearance to the whites of my eyes and which are safe-does lasik laser also help whiten the sclera. Thanks

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