My Quest for Eye Drops That Work for Me
Since being diagnosed with chronic dry eye (CDE), my biggest challenge has been choosing the eye drops best for me.
After my diagnosis, my optometrist told me to use over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops. Living in a rural area, I drove 60 miles to the nearest Walmart to pick up some drops. I am sure my jaw must have dropped as I surveyed the dizzying selection of eye drops. Not knowing which ones were best, I chose the cheapest thing available that was labeled “artificial tears.”
After using the artificial tears a few days, I realized I needed to know more about the different types of eye drops. After all, eye drops range in price from as little as a dollar to 20 bucks a bottle.
Types of OTC eye drops
OTC drops, or artificial tears, are divided into two categories: with preservatives and preservative free. Many of our community members report that their doctor advises them to use the preservative-free drops to avoid irritation or infection. Preservative free is recommended if you use drops more often than 3-4 times a day or have moderate to severe dry eyes.1
On average, I use drops no more than four times daily. Considering the high cost of drops, I use those with preservatives. I am very careful not to touch the tip of the bottle with my fingers or to my eyelids.
The artificial tears, or lubricating drops, sometimes don’t provide enough relief for me. I have tried several different brands before settling on the GenTeal brand. It takes a lot of trial and error, as well as money, to find a drop that works for you.
Treating my symptoms at night
I experience my most severe symptoms at night. On a typical day, I spend several hours using my iPad. Reading on an electronic device makes my dry eyes worse. During reading or even watching television, our blink response slows down. Blinking my eyes helps spread my tears and keep my eyes more comfortable.
Occasionally during the night, I will wake up and find my eyelid stuck to my eyeball. Research informed me that this was serious and could lead to corneal abrasions. It was time to find something better for night-time use.
I tried both eye ointment and eye gels. The eye ointment provided the best relief but was very difficult for me to get into my eye properly. After trying several brands of eye gels, I found that the GenTeal gel drops helped most. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night with my eyelid stuck.
Finding what works for you
In retrospect, I wish I had asked my optometrist more questions. Newly-diagnosed, I had no idea what to ask. If you are just starting on your chronic dry eye journey, I recommend talking to your doctor for recommendations for eye drops. I mentioned by brand name the ones that work for me, but each person has to find the ones best for them.
Sometimes I read where a community member recommends a certain eye drop. I will go out and buy it only to find it doesn’t work that well for me. With dozens of choices, I hope you find the ones best for your unique needs.
Have you taken the 2023 Chronic Dry Eye In America survey?