Artificial tears are a saline solution with medications that are used to lubricate dry eyes (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) and help in retaining moisture in the surface of the eyes.

Dry Eyes

Lubricants in artificial tears help in keeping the eye moist, shield from injuries and infections and reduce symptoms of dry eyes such as burning, and itching. 

Artificial tears are over the counter medications that are used to treat dry eyes caused due to ageing, use of certain medications, after eye surgery and during extreme environmental conditions.

Causes Of Dry Eyes

Dry eyes are quite common and can affect any individual. Tear glands secrete tears which works to maintain the eyes wet and well-lubricated. One may get dry eyes if the tears are unable to offer adequate moisture to the eye. Some of the causes include:

  • Tear glands are not secreting adequate tears
  • Tears are drying very fast
  • Tears secreted are not effective at maintaining the eyes wet
  • Further, a few environmental and lifestyle factors may cause dry eyes. These include:
  • Dry or windy season
  • Smoky atmosphere
  • Air conditioning
  • Eye strain from excessive use of computers and gadgets or not blinking eyes often while looking at a screen
  • Tiredness

Risk Factors

Some of the common risk factors of dry eyes include:

  • People ages 50 years or older
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Women who experience hormonal changes during pregnancy, menopause or using oral birth control
  • Using contact lenses
  • Not getting adequate vitamin A or omega 3 fatty acids from the diet
  • Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid issues, or some types of autoimmune disorders such as lupus and Sjogren’s disease
  • Inflammation of the eyes or eyelids
  • Taking certain medications like antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, or antidepressants, these drugs may decrease tear production
  • Those who underwent refractive eye surgery

Two Types Of Artificial Tears

Preservative Eye drops

Preservative eye drops are usually advised if you suffer from moderate or severe dry eyes. This comes in multidose vials.

Preservative-Free Eye drops

Preservative-free eye drops have mild additives and are usually advised to use for more than four times a day or if you have severe dry eyes. This comes in single-dose vials.

Artificial tears are also available as nonprescription gels and gel inserts.

How To Use

Always consult your ophthalmologist if you have any queries or follow the instructions on the product package. Discard the solution if you can see a colour change or it looks cloudy. Shake the product before using it.

Artificial tears are generally used very often as and when needed.

To use eye drops, wash hands first. To prevent contamination do not touch the tip of the bottle. Always replace the cap tightly after use.

Incline your head back, look up and lower your eyelid to make a pouch. Place the dropper directly over the eye and squeeze out 1 or 2 drops as required. Gently close your eye for 1 or 2 minutes. Place one finger at the corner of the eye and apply gentle pressure to prevent drops from draining away.

For applying ointment, hold the tube directly over the eye and gently squeeze a small strip of ointment into the pouch. Release the eyelid, close the eye, and slowly roll your eye in all directions to spread the medication.

Consult your ophthalmologist if your condition persists or worsens after 3 days.

Things To Lookout

It is generally safe to use preservative-free artificial tears as required. Use artificial tears not more than four times a day or as advised by your doctor.

Some may experience side effects from using artificial tears like blurred vision, thus it is ideal to use artificial tears before sleeping or while at rest.

In a few cases, artificial tears may result in allergic reactions, then one must stop using the eye drops and contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms

  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Breathing problem
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea