How often use eye drops?

Over-the-Counter Eye Drops: Potential Risks

Preservative-free eye drops come in multiple one-time use vials. After you apply one dose of the drops, you must throw away the vial. You have to purchase this type of eye drop more frequently since it is not shelf stable. Single-use drops are helpful if you have severe dry eyes and need more than four applications per day.

Risks of OTC eye drops

Many ingredients go into a bottle of eye drops, including preservatives and thickeners. These ingredients may irritate your eyes in the long term. Other risks of eye drops include contamination and loose safety seals.


Preservatives give eye drops a longer shelf life for added convenience. However, these chemicals can irritate the eyes. If you use eye drops with preservatives, you should apply no more than four doses in one day. If your dry eye is severe, you might need more than four doses per day. In this case, you should purchase preservative-free eye drops. Always check the label of your eye drops carefully.


The tip of the eye drop bottle can become contaminated if it touches your eye or another surface. You must be very careful with the eye drop bottle. Replace the lid as soon as you finish applying the drops, and be careful not to touch the tip to your eye. Read the instructions and warnings on the label to avoid contamination.

Loose safety seals

The FDA warns against purchasing OTC eye drops with loose seals or rings. Some bottles have loose-fitting parts that have landed in users’ eyes.

Normally, the safety seals should remain attached to the bottle. If they’re loose, they can cause injury. Pay attention the type of bottle you’re purchasing. Try to find one with a firmly attached safety seal or ring.

Side effects

Be aware that artificial tears sometimes have side effects. For example, cloudy vision can occur temporarily just after application. You shouldn’t operate a vehicle or machinery for several minutes after applying eye drops.

You should also be on alert for allergic reactions. Keep in mind that only 5 to 10 percent of drug reactions are allergic. Anaphylactic allergic reactions to medication might include hives, swelling, wheezing, dizziness, or vomiting. If you see any symptoms like this, stop using the product and get medical help immediately.


OTC eye drops are a good option if you have a mild case of dry eyes, as long as you pay attention to the label. Follow these tips for using eye drops safely:

  • If you purchase eye drops with preservatives, don’t exceed four doses per day.
  • If you buy single-use eye drops, throw away the bottle immediately after each use.
  • Keep an eye out for side effects and use good hygiene with your bottle of eye drops.

Talk to your doctor if you experience side effects, or if your eye drops stop helping your symptoms. If you find yourself needing eye drops on a regular basis, it’s important to see your doctor for further evaluation.

Are These Whitening Eye Drops Actually Safe?

Popular eye drops like Visine and Clear Eyes that claim to get out the red deliver on the promise–but usually only for a while. Then, they can have a rebound effect, resulting in more redness, which requires more drops… and on the cycle goes.

“You need more and more drug for the same effect because the body is trying to react to constant stimulation,” says Rahul Pandit, MD, an ophthalmologist with the Blanton Eye Institute at Houston Methodist Hospital.

RELATED: 8 Reasons Your Eyes Are Red—and How to Treat Them

Now, there’s a new (and potentially better) player on pharmacy shelves: eye drops called Lumify, approved by the FDA in late 2017.

Essentially, Lumify is similar to Visine in that it relieves redness and whitens the eyes, says Amy Lin, MD, associate professor in ophthalmology at the University of Utah Moran Eye Center. But it’s different in that it doesn’t lead to the rebound redness some people get when they stop using the typical drops, she says.

Visine and similar drugs work by constricting blood vessels in the eye. They do this by toning down activity on the eye’s alpha-1 receptor. Lumify also constricts blood vessels, but it acts on a different receptor: alpha-2. According to Bausch & Lomb, which makes Lumify, targeting alpha-2 dilates small veins rather than small arteries (as targeting alpha-1 does), thereby avoiding the rebound effect.

“It’s in the same family , just a little bit more specific,” explains Laurie Barber, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

RELATED: 5 Types of Eye Drops That Can Actually Help Your Allergies

Lumify is, in fact, a much lower concentration of a long-standing glaucoma medication called Alphagan, which is available by prescription. It decreases pressure on the optic nerve by constricting blood vessels.

“The dose that’s used for glaucoma is four to eight times what Lumify is, so it’s a safe drug,” says Dr. Lin.

Six studies involving about 600 participants reported a low risk for rebound redness when using Lumify. The longest of these studies lasted about seven weeks; the effects of the drops–which were usually given four times a day in the studies–lasted about eight hours.

The original Alphagan did come with side effects. For example, there’s a high incidence of allergic response to the active ingredient (brimonidine) in glaucoma patients, says Dr. Lin. People can also have reactions to the preservatives used. But the lower concentration may have fewer downsides, says Dr. Pandit, who has consulted for Bausch & Lomb.

Dr. Barber points out, though, that four times a day “is a lot of drops to be using.” (In fact, it’s “probably the maximum,” adds Dr. Lin.) “I’m concerned because when patients use it on a consistent basis, it masks a symptom we need to know about,” Dr. Barber says. “If a patient has red eyes and doesn’t know what’s causing them, they need to be seen by an ophthalmologist.” She’s also concerned that Lumify’s label says it’s safe for patients over the age of 5, even though studies were done only on adults.

That said, Dr. Barber’s “not against it yet, because I’m not able to evaluate it except from afar.” It may be okay for occasional use, say, once a month, if your eyes are red from fatigue.

Dr. Pandit on the other hand is more enthusiastic. “I’m really happy about it,” he says.

For years, patients have come to him wanting a way to get rid of redness. After all, red eyes are common, whether from allergies, staring at a glowing screen for prolonged periods, or wearing your contact lenses too long. Red eyes can also be a sign of more serious concerns, like conjunctivitis or even glaucoma. Some people even have a genetic predisposition to redness in their eyes, he adds.

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“We can control the allergic reaction response but the redness portion is the most difficult thing to treat,” Dr. Pandit says. “Now we have something to offer them. This is the happy quotient we’ve been waiting for.”

Keep in mind that the medication has only been out for a few months, and there is often additional safety and efficacy information that sifts in as more and more people use any new drug. In other words, if you’re considering using Lumify, do so with the expert advice above in mind–and stay tuned for updates.

Clear Eyes

Generic Name: naphazoline ophthalmic (na FAZ oh leen off THAL mik)
Brand Name: AK-Con, Albalon, Allersol, Clear Eyes, Clear Eyes + Redness Relief, Naphcon, Redness Relief Eye Drops

Medically reviewed by on Feb 19, 2019 – Written by Cerner Multum

  • Overview
  • Side Effects
  • Interactions
  • Pricing
  • More

What is Clear Eyes?

Naphazoline is a vasoconstrictor. It works by narrowing swollen blood vessels in the eyes to reduce eye redness.

Clear Eyes (for the eye) is for temporary relief of minor eye redness or discomfort caused by minor irritants.

Clear Eyes may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.

Important Information

Clear Eyes is for temporary relief of minor eye redness or discomfort caused by minor irritants.

You should not use Clear Eyes if you have narrow-angle glaucoma.

Stop using Clear Eyes and call your doctor at once if you have ongoing or worsening eye redness, eye pain, vision changes, severe dizziness, or headache, buzzing in your ears, or feeling short of breath.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Clear Eyes if you are allergic to it, or if you have narrow-angle glaucoma.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to take this medicine if you have other medical conditions, especially:

  • heart disease, high blood pressure;

  • diabetes;

  • a thyroid disorder; or

  • an eye injury or infection.

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether Clear Eyes will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medication.

It is not known whether naphazoline ophthalmic passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How should I use Clear Eyes?

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Using the medication too long or too often may worsen your symptoms and cause damage to the blood vessels in your eyes.

Wash your hands before using the eye drops.

To apply the eye drops:

  • Tilt your head back slightly and pull down your lower eyelid to create a small pocket. Hold the dropper above the eye with the tip down. Look up and away from the dropper and squeeze out a drop.

  • Close your eye and gently press your finger to the inside corner of the eye for about 1 minute, to keep the liquid from draining into your tear duct.

  • Use only the number of drops recommended.

Do not touch the tip of the eye dropper or place it directly on your eye. A contaminated dropper can infect your eye, which could lead to serious vision problems.

Do not use the eye drops if the liquid has changed colors or has particles in it.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Do not freeze. Keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Since Clear Eyes is used when needed, you may not be on a dosing schedule. If you are on a schedule, use the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next scheduled dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

An overdose of naphazoline ophthalmic is not expected to be dangerous. Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed the medication.

Keep Clear Eyes out of the reach of children. Certain eye medications can cause serious medical problems in a young child who accidentally sucks on or swallows medicine from the eye dropper.

What should I avoid while using Clear Eyes?

Do not use this medication while wearing contact lenses. Clear Eyes may contain a preservative that can discolor soft contact lenses. Wait at least 15 minutes after using this medicine before putting in your contact lenses.

Clear Eyes side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Stop using Clear Eyes and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • ongoing or worsening eye redness;

  • eye pain;

  • changes in your vision;

  • chest pain, fast or uneven heart rate; or

  • severe headache, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, confusion, or feeling short of breath.

Common side effects may include:

  • mild burning or stinging of the eye;

  • blurred vision, watery eyes; or

  • mild headache, dizziness, nervousness.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Clear Eyes?

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use Clear Eyes if you are also using any of the following drugs:

  • an antidepressant–amitriptyline, clomipramine, desipramine, desvenlafaxine, doxepin, duloxetine, imipramine, maprotiline, milnacipran, nortriptyline, venlafaxine;

  • ergot medicine–ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, ergonovine, methylergonovine; or

  • an MAO inhibitor–furazolidone, isocarboxazid, linezolid, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine.

This list is not complete and other drugs may interact with Clear Eyes. Tell your doctor about all medications you use. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, vitamin, and herbal products. Do not start a new medication without telling your doctor.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Copyright 1996-2018 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 7.01.

Medical Disclaimer

More about Clear Eyes Redness Relief (naphazoline ophthalmic)

  • Side Effects
  • Drug Interactions
  • Pricing & Coupons
  • Drug class: ophthalmic antihistamines and decongestants
  • FDA Alerts (2)

Consumer resources

  • Clear Eyes + Redness Relief
  • Redness Relief Eye Drops
  • Clear Eyes Redness Relief
  • Clear Eyes (Advanced Reading)

Other brands: Naphcon, Albalon, Ocu-Zoline, VasoClear, … +2 more

Professional resources

  • Naphazoline Hydrochloride (AHFS Monograph)
  • … +1 more

Related treatment guides

  • Eye Redness

The Dangers of “Redness Relief” Eye Drops

Created on: Monday, February 05, 2018
Author: Eye Associates Surgi Center of Vineland

While suffering from red, itching, and/or irritated eyes, many of us never hesitate to reach for “Redness Relief Eye Drops.” These drops (the most popular brands being Visine, Clear Eyes, B&L advanced redness relief) are known for temporary relief of minor eye redness or discomfort caused by minor irritants. But what are the ingredients in these drops? And how often should these drops be used without consulting your Eye Associates Physician? Sydney L Tyson, MD, MPH (President and Medical Director of Eye Associates) sends a public service announcement to local communities as his practice has recently been seeing many cases of patients abusing these over-the-counter medications.

“Visine, Clear Eyes, B&L advanced redness relief, and several other generic versions of this redness relief drop most commonly contain either the active ingredient Tetrahydrozoline or Naphazoline. Both of these drugs are in a category called sympathomimetics,” said Dr. Tyson. The problem is that these sympathomimetics work by a process called vasoconstriction (or artificially clamping down the superficial blood vessels on the eye surface.) Blood vessels on the eye surface often dilate in response to irritation of the eye surface. This increase in blood flow is trying to help repair whatever irritation is affecting the surface of the eye. Clamping down on those vessels by using a vasoconstrictor counteracts the body’s efforts to repair the problem.

In short, these eye drops may be fine to use temporarily, but over time they really prevent your eyes from naturally recovering from whatever is causing the irritation in the first place.

“The other downside to repetitively using redness relief drops is that after the vasoconstrictor wears off the vessels often dilate to an even larger degree than when the process started. This stimulates you to use yet another redness relief drop. This leads to a vicious cycle of abusing these eye drops without ever consulting a physician,” said Dr. Tyson.

All of these drops carry these same two warnings on their labels: “Do not overuse as it may produce increased redness of the eye” and “Stop using and ask a doctor if: you experience eye pain, changes in vision, continued redness or irritation of the eye condition worsens or persists for more than 72 hours.”

Drop users must heed these drops’ warnings. “These drops were designed to be used for a very short period of time… one to two days maximum. That’s it,” said Dr. Tyson. They are not meant to be used indefinitely. They are certainly not meant to be used daily.

Using redness relief drops if you wear contacts is an even worse idea. If you put the drop in with your contact in, the contact will hold onto the drug and keep it on your eye surface longer thus potentiating the vasoconstriction. Your cornea has no blood vessels in it and it depends on the blood vessels in the conjunctiva, over the whites of the eye, to bring in nutrients and oxygen. The other source of oxygen for the cornea is what it gets from diffusion from the atmosphere and that is also cut down by the presence of the contact lens. The “redness relief” drop combined with the contact lens are now both reducing the levels of oxygen getting to the cornea. Decreased oxygen to the cornea is one of the biggest risks for contact lens related infections including corneal ulcers.

If you are using redness relief drops repetitively you are likely making your eye redness even worse, not better. It is recommended that you see your Eye Associates Ophthalmologist or Optometrist right away that way the route of the problem can be addressed. “In the meantime, as you wait to see one of us, stop using the redness relief drops and replace them with artificial tears. This should help with some of the irritation without making your problem worse” said Dr. Tyson.

But what will happen to the eyes of those using these drops once they stop? Eye Associates warns that after you make the switch, your eyes are initially going to be red as your blood vessels take time to regain their normal vascular tone without the vasoconstrictor clamping down on them. The lubricating drop will actually help repair the damage done by exposure to adverse conditions. This will decrease the inflammatory signals that make the vessels dilate. Although uncomfortable, this will actually be helpful to the surface of your eyes instead of just masking everything by artificially clamping down on your vessels and decreasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the front surface of your eye.

“In short, please consult your Eye Associates physician before using any type of eyedrop long term,” warns Dr. Tyson. “It is so unfortunate when we have patients come in with eye problems such as this that are easily preventable.”

Contact your nearest Eye Associates location at 1-800-922-1766 for more information on the seriousness of these redness relief drops or to schedule your appointment with one of our qualified Ophthalmologists or Optometrists who will keep your vision safe and healthy!

Can You Be Addicted To Eye Drops?

When your eyes are dry, red, and irritated, you may reach for eye drops for instant relief. Used as a short-term solution to treat eye issues, eye drops are one of the most popular and effective over-the-counter (OTC) medications used today. However, prolonged or frequent use can actually worsen your eye problems.

As the effects of the eye drops subside or upon discontinuation of the drops, the original eye symptoms may return stronger than before. This is known as eye rebounding or rebound hyperemia, and it is one of the reasons people become addicted to eye drops.

Whitening Eye Drops

Many OTC decongestant, or whitening, eye drops contain vasoconstrictors like tetrahydrozoline and naphazoline. These eye drops work by constricting blood flow to the outer blood vessels of the sclera, or white part of the eye, and conjunctiva (clear tissue on top of the white part of the eye) causing the eyes to look less red. Each time you use these eye drops, the blood vessels constrict, decreasing the blood flow and preventing oxygen and nutrients to get to the sclera.

But once you discontinue prolonged use of the eye drops, eye rebounding can occur. Uninhibited by the medication in the eye drops, the blood vessels in the sclera may enlarge and become redder as they try to deliver valuable oxygen to the deprived eye structures. Many people are dependent on or addicted to whitening eye drops to keep their eyes looking white.

Allergy Eye Drops

Eye drops containing a combination of antihistamines and decongestants are often used to treat ocular allergy symptoms like watery eyes, redness, puffiness, and itching. The antihistamines work to inhibit histamine that causes itchy, watery eyes while the decongestants work to relieve eye redness and puffiness. Prolonged use of these eye drops can cause increased eye dryness, redness, and irritation — the very symptoms that make the eyes dependent on the drops.

Lubricating Eye Drops

Artificial tears, a lubricating type of eye drop, is used to relieve eye dryness and irritation caused by insufficient tear production in people with dry eyes, glaucoma, and certain eye infections. Artificial tears contain water, salts, polymers, and other ingredients that mimic natural tears.

Some people significantly overuse artificial tears eye drops, causing them to wash away their natural tears. Prolonged use and/or overuse can cause a dependency on the drops to soothe and moisturize the eyes, as well as protect delicate eye layers.


Use OTC eye drops only as directed by the packaging or your doctor. Eye drops can often disguise many eye conditions, even serious ones. Speak with your eye doctor if your eye problems are worsening or ongoing for more than a week. You may have an underlying eye condition that requires medical attention.

8 Worst Eyedrop Mistakes You’re Making

2. Be Careful Mixing Drops

If you’re using different eyedrops simultaneously, space them out. “I tell patients to maintain a 30-minute window between their prescription and non-prescription drops,” Marioneaux says. Drops may interact to cause burning and watery eyes, which reduces their effectiveness.

“If your prescription drop is only once a day, you have the entire day to put the rest of the drops in,” Marioneaux says. Talk to your eye doctor about the best way to juggle different drops.

RELATED: Looking Disease in the Eye

3. Keep Track of Dosages

As with any medication, it’s important that eyedrops be taken as directed. Missing doses or overusing drops can affect treatment. Marioneaux suggests timing doses to an existing routine, such as when you take other medications, or setting an alarm on a smartphone or other device as a reminder.

You may want to move an eyedrop bottle from one location to another once it’s been used. If you prefer, keep a log or draw up a chart and check off the dose whenever a drop is applied.

If a patient with a potentially serious condition like glaucoma can’t remember whether they used their eye medicine, Marioneaux advises putting in a drop to be safe. “If they’re not sure and their pressure is really poorly controlled, I’d rather have them do an extra one if they haven’t done it than to not do it,” she says. But Marioneaux emphasizes, “I do not routinely want them putting an extra drop in.”

4. Don’t Skip Drops When You Have an Appointment

“Always use the medicine on the day of your exam unless directed otherwise,” Marioneaux says. “The purpose of the appointment is to see if the drops are working.” Don’t worry about your prescribed eyedrops interfering with the appointment unless you have specific instructions from your eye doctor to stop using them.

5. Mind the Expiration Date

When having a prescription filled, check the expiration date to make sure it won’t lapse during your treatment. If eyedrops do expire, speak to your doctor about whether they’re safe to continue using or if you need a new prescription.

If you have a container of drops left over after stopping treatment, “just keep it in a safe place,” Marioneaux says. “But if you’re feeling like you’re having a problem, please don’t just indiscriminately use it. Come in, let me check it, and see if what you have at home would be appropriate.”

6. Don’t Self-Diagnose

“Don’t treat yourself for red eyes,” Marioneaux says, or for other eye conditions you’re self-diagnosing. For minor concerns, if a condition does not improve in 24 to 48 hours, “then you should absolutely follow up with the doctor to make sure and identify what you have.” If you have more severe symptoms like vision loss, consult a doctor immediately.

7. Know What You’re Taking

Always double-check the bottle in your hand before putting drops in your eye. “The worst mistake is actually confusing the eyedrop with the ear drop, and vice versa,” Marioneaux says. “Some people will put ear drops in their eyes, and sometimes that can be disastrous.”

8. How to Aim Drops

“What I tell patients is if they put the drop in and they look on their face and there’s a drop that looks just like the drop they put in, that is the drop, so they should go ahead and put another one in so that they actually have the medicine in,” Marioneaux says.

You should aim the drop in the outer — not inner — corner of the eye. “I tell if you put it in close to the nose, that’s where it goes,” she says. Rather than dabbing your eye with a tissue, place a clean finger gently where the eye meets the nose to keep drops from draining.

Contacts can interfere with absorption, so artificial tears aside, it’s usually a good idea to take them out before using drops. Read the instructions on medications carefully, and speak to your doctor if you have any questions.

Once the drop is in the eye, don’t blink excessively or rapidly. “Some people feel if they blink and move the eye around they’ll get better absorption. That’s false,” Marioneaux says. “You will pump the medication out of the eye, as opposed to moving it around.” Just blink normally, and if you can’t help blinking a lot, just close the eye for a minute or two.

How to put in eye drops

Eye Care

By Amy Hellem; reviewed by Gary Heiting, OD

Eye drops are used to treat a wide variety of conditions — from glaucoma and eye infections to allergies and dry eyes. In many cases, eye drops are essential to preserving your vision and protecting your eyes.

To get the greatest benefit from eye drops, you must use them properly. Whether you need one drop per day or 10, there’s a right way and a wrong way to put eye drops in your eyes.

Your eye doctor or pharmacist may give you instructions that are specific to the prescription eye drops you need. But in most cases, the proper technique for applying eye drops is the same, whether you are using prescription or over-the-counter formulas that you can purchase without a prescription.

Failing to learn how to correctly put drops in your eyes not only can defeat the purpose of having them, it also can get expensive.

Each time you miss your eye and have to use more drops than you should, it costs you money — potentially a lot of money in the case of some prescription eye drops.

Step-by-step approach to putting in eye drops

1. Wash your hands with soap and water; then dry them with a clean towel.

2. If you are wearing contact lenses, remove them. The only exception is if you are using eye drops that are specifically formulated to re-moisten your contacts or if your doctor advised you to use the drops in this manner.

3. Remove the dropper cap and look closely at the tip to make sure it’s not cracked or otherwise damaged. Do not touch the tip.

4. Either lie down or tilt your head back, and look up at the ceiling. Concentrate on a point on the ceiling, keeping your eye wide open.

5. Place one or two fingers on your face about an inch below your eye; gently pull down to create a pocket between your lower eyelid and your eyeball.

6. Use your other hand to hold the eye drop bottle, pointing the tip downward. Resting your hand on your forehead may help steady it.

7. Hold the bottle close to your eye (about an inch away). Be careful not to let the dropper touch your eye or eyelashes, since this can introduce bacteria and other organisms into the eye drops in the bottle.

8. Squeeze lightly to instill one drop inside your lower lid.

9. Remove your hands from your face, gently close your eyes and tilt your head down for a few seconds. Try not to blink, as this can force some of the drop out of your eye before it has had a chance to be absorbed.

10. To keep as much of the drop on your eye as possible, press lightly on the inner corner of your eyelid, next to your nose. A small duct that drains tears away from your eye and into your nose is located here. By pressing at this point, you close down the opening of this drainage duct, allowing the eye drop to remain on the surface of your eye longer.

This technique also minimizes the funny taste you may get in your mouth after applying certain eye drops.

11. Use a clean tissue to absorb and wipe away any drops that spill out of your eye and onto your eyelids and face.

12. If you are using eye drops on both eyes, repeat this procedure for the second eye.

13. Replace the cap of the bottle and screw it on securely. Never wipe the dropper tip with anything, as this may contaminate the drops.

14. Wash your hands to rinse away any stray eye drops.

SEE RELATED: Eye drops: Which type is right for you?

What to do if you need to use more than one eye drop

Sometimes, you may be prescribed more than one type of medicated eye drop. The challenge: If you apply the drops too quickly in succession, they may drip out of the eye and not be absorbed properly, reducing the therapeutic effect.

If you need to put a second eye drop in the same eye, wait at least five minutes. This will give time for the first drop to be fully absorbed and create more space for the second drop on the eye.

If you use both a medicated eye drop and a lubricating eye drop on the same eye, many doctors prefer that you start with the prescription (medicinal) eye drop first and save over-the-counter products, such as artificial tears, for later.

SEE RELATED: Allergy eye drops: Relief from allergic conjunctivitis

Practice with artificial tears

If you aren’t comfortable putting drops in your eyes, a little practice can help you master the task quickly.

Purchase a package of preservative-free artificial tears to use for practice. (Don’t practice with prescription eye drops — you don’t want to risk over-medicating.)

Using a preservative-free formula eliminates the risk of you being allergic to preservatives found in many artificial tears.

Also, choose a product formulated for mild dry eyes — these drops aren’t as thick as those made for moderate or severe dry eyes, so they won’t cause any temporary blurred vision.

Ask a friend to coach you while you are practicing. In particular, have them help you position the applicator at the proper distance and location above your eye so the drops fall directly on the surface of your eye or in the space between your eye and your pulled-down lower lid.

In less time than you might think, you will become a pro at applying eye drops.

Also, it’s a good idea to keep a supply of preservative-free artificial tears on hand. These drops can help relieve discomfort associated with computer eye strain and are soothing at other times when your eyes are tired or dry.

Page updated September 2019

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Amy Hellem

Amy Hellem is a writer, editor and researcher who specializes in eye care and other medical fields.

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The best eye drops for people with red eyes

When the tiny blood vessels in the eye swell, the eyes look red and irritated. These vessels occasionally burst, producing more intense redness.

Share on PinterestRed eye may be caused by a number of different conditions.

Red eyes can be caused by conditions ranging in severity from minor to sight-threatening. As a result, red eyes alone won’t help a doctor work out what’s wrong. They will need to consider other symptoms and the person’s health history to rule out most other causes.

Dry eyes

When eyes are dry, the blood vessels can become irritated and inflamed. Some common causes of dry eye include:

  • Dry weather, particularly during the winter months
  • Illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes
  • Hormonal changes during menopause and pregnancy
  • Medications that reduce the quantity of quality of tears
  • Long-term contact use
  • Inadequate sleep

It’s usually safe to treat dry eyes with over-the-counter remedies, but if someone often experiences dry eyes, they should talk to an eye doctor.

Eye irritation

Minor eye irritation can redden the eyes with inflammation. Some common sources of eye irritation include:

  • Sun exposure and tanning beds
  • Excessively rubbing the eyes
  • Allergies
  • Air pollution
  • Chlorinated pool water
  • An object in the eye, such as an eyelash or grain of sand

Irritation can continue even after the object has been removed from the eye. Eye irritation usually goes away after a few hours. If symptoms get worse, a doctor should be seen.


A wide range of infections can damage the eye. Eye injuries can become infected when dirt and bacteria enter the wound. People can also get an eye infection from eye products such as contact lenses and mascara.

Some eye infections are contagious from person to person.

Some of the most common eye infections are:

  • Blepharitis: An itchy, scaly infection on the eyelids that is not contagious
  • Infected eyelash follicles: Known as styes, these infections produce a small bump and usually go away on their own
  • Conjunctivitis: Better known as pink eye, this infection can be either viral or bacterial

It’s difficult to diagnose the type of infection someone has based solely on symptoms. Anyone experiencing the following symptoms should see an eye doctor:

  • Intense eye pain
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty opening their eyes
  • Green discharge from the eye
  • Light sensitivity

Eye injuries

Share on PinterestAny eye injury where the vision is impaired or the eye is bleeding should be directed to a doctor immediately.

An injury to the eye, such as a scratch or blow, can cause redness, irritation, and bleeding. Eye injuries can become infected, and may threaten vision if left untreated.

Anyone who injures their eye should see an eye doctor immediately. If their eye is bleeding or they cannot see, they should go to an emergency room.


Glaucoma damages the optic nerve and can destroy sight if left untreated. When glaucoma raises pressure in the eye, it can produce redness and pain.

Changes in vision, difficulty seeing to the side, and tunnel vision can signal glaucoma. Anyone who experiences these symptoms should consult an eye doctor and avoid using eye drops.


The uvea is the pigmented portion of the eye. Uveitis is an inflammation of this region that can cause intense redness in the iris, the outer portion of the uvea.

Anyone who experiences sudden redness or pain concentrated in the colorful center of the eye should see an eye doctor.

Drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol can dilate blood vessels and cause inflammation, making eyes look red. This type of redness is usually harmless, but if eyes are often red due to alcohol or drugs, substance abuse treatment may be needed.


Left untreated, eye infections can cause sores on the eyes. These ulcers are often red, painful, and endanger vision.

If anyone notices redness in a single area, has symptoms of an infection, or sees a sore in their eye, they should seek immediate medical care.

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