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Eye Drops: Can You Become Dependent on Them?

Updated: Feb 3



Eye drops are one of the first things people reach for when they feel discomfort or have redness in their eyes. They are a popular short-term solution and over-the-counter medication for different eye problems. However, like all things, you should use them in moderation. If your symptoms have worsened after application, you should discontinue them immediately and consult your eye doctor.


Can you actually become dependent on eye drops or overuse them? Find out from a local optometry expert.


Different Kinds of Eye Drops

Allergy Eye Drops

People with ocular allergy symptoms may use eye drops with a combination of antihistamine and decongestants. These eye drops treat symptoms such as watery eyes, redness, itching, and puffiness. Antihistamines inhibit the histamine that triggers the symptoms while the decongestants relieve redness and puffiness. However, using allergy eye drops for too long when unnecessary can result in redness, irritation, and increased eye dryness.


Whitening Eye Drops

Many over-the-counter decongestants or whitening eye drops have vasoconstrictors like tetrahydrozoline and naphazoline. They constrict blood flow to the sclera’s outer blood vessels or the white part of the eye and conjunctiva, reducing the eye redness. Every time you use them, the blood vessels constrict, which decreases the blood flow and prevents oxygen and nutrients from reaching the sclera.


When the tissues in the eyes don’t receive enough oxygen, your body tends to enlarge the blood vessels as a response. As a result, your eyes may look significantly redder, and the blood vessels will look more noticeable. The blood vessels may also become more vulnerable to leaks and tears due to the enlarging process, increasing the likelihood of developing red eyes.


If you suddenly stop using whitening eye drops after a long time of use, you can experience a rebound effect. People usually complain about getting redder eyes and dryness after discontinuing whitening eye drops. If symptoms persist, it’s best to get an eye exam from a local optometrist.


Lubricating Eye Drops

A type of lubricating eye drop, artificial tears relieve eye dryness and irritation due to insufficient tear production in people with dry eyes and other eye conditions. Ingredients mimicking natural tears are found in artificial tears, such as water, salts, and polymers.


Eye Problems Hidden by Eye Drops

Serious Allergies

Allergies to the environment or pests can occur with dry, itchy eyes. You can determine what triggers your allergies by consulting an allergist or getting rid of items in your home one at a time to eliminate possible causes. Never use anything in your eye unless recommended by an eye doctor.

Pink Eye

Also called conjunctivitis, pink eye is inflammation or infection of the transparent membrane that lines your eyelid and covers the white part of your eye. The small blood vessels in the conjunctiva are more visible if they are inflamed, causing the white of your eyes to look pink.


A bacterial or viral infection usually causes pink eye. Its most common symptoms include eye redness and itchiness, a gritty feeling in the eyes, and a discharge that forms a crust as your sleep at night. It may or may not affect your vision, and there are various treatments for it. However, it is contagious, making early diagnosis and treatment essential.


Eye Strain

Using the computer for hours without breaks can tire and irritate your eyes. It can also occur while driving long distances. Eye strain is characterized by burning or itchy eyes, headache, pain in the shoulders, neck, or back, increased light sensitivity, poor concentration, and double vision. To avoid discomfort, do not forget to give your eyes a break while working. You can follow the 20-20-20 rule, where every 20 minutes you look 20 feet away from your digital screen for 20 seconds. It will help as well to make blinking a conscious habit to keep your eyes moisturized.


If you’re feeling more strain than usual, you may need to wear glasses to feel more comfortable while working. To ensure that you have the right eyewear for your activity and a proper prescription, get a comprehensive eye exam regularly.


Blepharitis

Bacteria and problems with the oil glands in the eyelids can lead to blepharitis. This eye condition refers to inflammation of the eyelids. It is more common in individuals who have oily skin or dandruff. People with blepharitis may have flakes or oily particles at the base of their eyelashes. Their eyes may look red, swollen, or appear sore.


To keep blepharitis under control, you must keep your eyelids, hair, and skin clean at all times. Proper hygiene is essential when it comes to minimizing blepharitis symptoms. If you have crusting present, gently wash and scrub your eyelids with baby shampoo diluted in water. You can also purchase over-the-counter lid scrubs.


Foreign Objects

You can experience discomfort in your eyes if an eyelash, sand, dust, or other foreign object has entered them. If you have been experiencing eye discomfort, make sure that a foreign body is not what's causing it. You may experience pain or a feeling of pressure in your eye. A foreign object can also cause excessive blinking and bloodshot eyes. It’s best to get an eye exam before using over-the-counter medication for your eyes. You need to get emergency treatment immediately if the foreign object has chemicals or sharp edges and is causing bleeding.


Eye Trauma

Rubbing or scratching your eyes too harshly can cause a blood vessel to break, resulting in eye redness. Corneal abrasions can occur if something has scratched your eye. When your eye is struck by a heavy object or with force, it can result in eye swelling and swollen eyelids. For this type of trauma, an ice pack is a good immediate treatment, but you should still see an eye doctor to make sure that there is no internal damage. Surgery or prescription eye drops may be required for more serious injuries.


Regular comprehensive eye exams can help with the early detection and treatment of various eye problems. At Scope Optometry, we’re here to provide eye care solutions for you and your family. Call us at (949) 409-3040 or request an appointment online.


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