Q: I was looking at the pharmacy last week for some drops to make my eyes feel better, but with all the choices I really had no idea how to choose. Can you help?
A: You are right about having too many choices on the shelf, but let me give you some direction. First,
try to identify exactly what symptom or problem you are trying to help.
- Is it a matter of your eyes feeling dry?
- Are they red?
- Are they itchy?
- Do they burn?
- And also what time of day or with what activity are they most a problem…..morning or evening, while on your computer, more indoors or outside?
These kinds of clues can help direct you to the right type of treatment. For example, if your eyes feel dry or scratchy then dry eye disease may be beginning. A good OTC ocular moisture drop can be fine to use up to three times a day. The proper artificial tears or lubricant drop should not also “take the red out” or “stop the itch”, as those actions require agents in the drop that can worsen dryness. Likely the most common error I see is a patient buying an eyedrop that “takes the red out” when what they really need is moisture enhancement. Likewise, an “allergy” eye drop to reduce itching may do just that, but also will make your eyes more dry!
Computer use is a common problem these days. We spend hours and hours staring at “digital devices”….our desktop, our laptop, our tablet, our smartphone and more. Turns out we all blink only about a third as often as we should when we look at these screens. We really do tend to stare at the screens, unlike a book or paper on your desk. Computer glasses can reduce eyestrain for digital use, and a moisture drop when you first sit down is a good idea.
If itching is the issue, good chance you have an ocular allergy. There are many “allergy” drops on the shelf, and some good ones that used to be by prescription only. But still today, the “strongest” and longest lasting eye allergy drops are only by prescription from your eye doctor. So try an inexpensive OTC drop first, but if two times a day is not enough to restore comfortable eyes, ask your eye doctor for a medical grade eye medication.
Lastly, many people have an underlying condition we call dry eye disease that causes or worsens all these symptoms. This especially true over the age of 50, and more so for women. We can use painless in-office tear samples to determine if your eyes have inflammation causing the dryness, or is it more a matter of too many birthdays! Inflammation caused dry eye is well treated with one of the excellent eye medications by prescription. Non-inflammatory dry eye is often better solved with tiny tear saver plugs we place in the tear drainage ducts of our eyelids, to retain more natural moisture on the surface of your eyes.
Call Morgantown Eye Associates on 304-381-5353 to schedule an eye exam with our Morgantown optometrist.
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