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Artificial tears are non-prescription over-the-counter eye drops that are used to treat dry eye symptoms. The purpose of these eye drops are to add extra moisture to the eyes and help relieve any burning or gritty sensations. However, if you have ever walked down the artificial tear aisle, you will be quickly overwhelmed by the number of options on the shelf! In this article, I’ll talk about the difference between each artificial tear and highlight a few of my favorite options.
Best lubricating drops for dry eyes
Lubricating eye drops provide temporary relief from dry eye symptoms. These drops have a thinner consistency and resemble a drop of water. They’re also the most common form of eye drops that you’ll find available over the counter.
Best gel drops (aka gel tears or liquid gel) for dry eyes
These are lubricating drops that have a slightly thicker consistency. These are a great option if you want something to stay in the eye longer but they can cause some transient blurred vision after installation although this is not always noticeable.
I recommend gel tears for a patient that has more lasting symptoms of dryness that are not relieved with a drop alone. Some of my favorite options in this category are Refresh Gel, Genteal Gel, and Thera Tears Liquid Gel.
Best ointments for dry eyes
Ointments are the thickest artificial tear option. It has a consistency similar to Vasoline and provides long-lasting comfort to a dry cornea. However, using an ointment will significantly blur your vision. For this reason, I suggest that patients use this at night right before they go to bed.
I recommend using an ointment when a patient has a more severe case of dryness. The most important thing when using an ointment is that it’s labeled as preservative-free. My favorite options in this category are Systane PM and Refresh PM.
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Best preservative-free drops for dry eye
Another important point is that many artificial tears have preservative-free options. These are single-use drops that come in small vials and contain no preservatives.
Sometimes, drops that contain preservatives can be harsh on a sensitive cornea so I recommend preservative-free drops for patients that have sensitive eyes or for those who want to use artificial tears more than four times a day. Some of my favorite options in this category are preservative-free Systane Ultra and preservative-free Refresh Optive.
Best eye drop for contact lens dryness
Not all artificial tears work well with contacts. In fact, many are too thick and blur up your vision while wearing contacts. Blink for Contacts is a good option but I also like preservative-free artificial tears like Systane Ultra. You can use these with or without contacts.
If you are experiencing mild dry eye symptoms, the best place to start is with one of the eye drops or gels mentioned above. However, if your symptoms are more severe, I suggest making an appointment with your eye care provider to really assess the situation.
There are different types of dry eye so one brand of tears will not work for everyone. If you’re unsure of what tears to use, the best person to ask is your eye doctor. They can tell what type of tear is best for you or if you need different treatment options. Talk to your eye care professional for more information.
What are your favorite artificial tears? Share your thoughts in the comments below!