Oral & Vision Health Blog

Can Overusing Eye Drops Be Harmful?

Do you find yourself constantly reaching for eye drops? This could be a sign that you are overusing your eye drops and causing further irritation to your eyes. Like any medication, eye drops must be taken as directed. And unless your doctor has instructed you to do so, eye drops should not be taken on a daily basis for weeks at a time. In fact, overusing eye drops can actually put your eye health at risk. Here are a few ways overusing eye drops can be harmful.

Types of Eye Drops

Before diving into the risks of overusing eye drops. It’s important to know the types of eye drops available over the counter.

Artificial tears: Artificial tears are used to maintain moisture. They often contain electrolytes or thickening agents. Artificial tears are available with and without preservatives. Preservatives give eye drops a longer shelf life for added convenience. However, these chemicals can irritate the eyes.

Medicated eye drops: These contain sympathomimetics, an ingredient that works to reduce irritation and redness in the eyes – an effect also known as, “clamp down”. Blood vessels dilate from irritation and the drops help “clamp down” the blood vessels.

Allergy eye drops: A subset of medicated eye drops, these drops contain antihistamines that help combat itchy and red eyes due to allergies.

What Are the Risks?

If you are suffering from eye redness or dry eyes, you may head to your local pharmacy and pick up an over-the-counter eye drop medication. It is important that you follow the directions listed on the eye drops and understand the risks of overusing them. Here are a few of those risks below.

  • They Can Wash Away Your Natural Tears

Artificial tears can provide temporary lubrication if your natural tear production dries out or the quality of your tears is compromised. Overusing artificial tears can flush out the tears your eyes do produce, or it can wash away the layer of tear film that helps them stay of the surface of your eyes. As mentioned before, if using artificial tears with preservatives, overuse can be very harmful for your eyes. It is recommended to apply no more than four doses in one day.

  • They Can Increase Eye Redness, Dryness, and Irritation

Medicated and allergy eyedrops are meant to soothe red, irritated eyes. Overusing these eyedrops can make problems worse. While medicated eye drops “clamp down” the blood vessels to ease redness and irritation, it also slows down the blood flow and oxygen to the sclera, or white part of the eye. Prolonged use of the drops can actually cause a “rebounding” effect, a cycle of persistent redness and irritation.

  • May Hide Serious Underlying Problems

If symptoms like eye redness, irritation or dryness endure despite prolonged use of eyedrops, there may be something more serious going on, such as inflammation, an eye infection, eye trauma or there is something stuck in the eye. These issues should not be overlooked because there could be serious consequences. Visit your optometrist as soon as you can so they can give you a proper diagnosis.

As a reminder, eye drops are a convenient but temporary solution, not a long-term fix and always use eye drops as directed. Good habits like this is part of maintaining healthy eyesight! You can learn more of them from reading our free Healthy Vision Ebook! Click the image below to download it today!


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