Using eye drops too much

Burning eyes: Causes and how to get relief


By Amy Hellem; reviewed by Gary Heiting, OD

Burning eyes can have several possible causes, ranging from the simple to the complex, and the burning sensation can occur with or without other symptoms such as itching, eye pain, watery eyes or discharge.

Frequently, burning eyes are caused by unavoidable environmental influences, such as strong winds or high pollen counts. However, similar sensations can be symptoms of a more serious eye problem that requires medical attention. To select appropriate treatment, it’s important to first establish the cause (or causes) of your burning eyes.

“Why Do My Eyes Burn?” — Causes Of Burning Eyes

Sometimes it’s easy to tell what’s causing an eye to burn. For example, your eyes might burn if you get chemicals in them, such as shampoo ingredients, chlorine from a swimming pool, or sunscreen. Other common irritants that can make your eyes burn include makeup, skin moisturizers, soap and cleaning products.

Burning eyes can have many causes. A trip to the eye doctor is the best way to get relief.

Wearing contact lenses for long periods of time also can make your eyes burn.

Burning eyes also can stem from environmental irritants like smog, smoke, dust, mold, pollen or pet dander. If you are allergic to any of these substances, they are even more likely to make your eyes burn. However, even “clean” air can cause your eyes to burn, especially when it’s particularly hot, cold or dry.

Although getting something in your eyes can cause them to burn, burning eyes sometimes signal a serious eye condition. For example, conditions such as ocular rosacea, dry eyes and blepharitis can cause symptoms of burning eyes.

In fact, anything that causes inflammation can create a burning sensation. Eye allergies, as well as bacterial and viral eye infections, can cause inflammation that leads to burning eyes. Even a common cold or the flu can cause eyes to burn.

In rare instances, burning eyes can be a sign of a serious sight- or life-threatening condition such as uveitis or


Often, burning eyes occur alongside other symptoms that can give your eye doctor clues about the root cause of your discomfort. For example, when burning eyes occur with itching, it may signal allergies; or if you have burning and eye discharge, this could mean an infection.

How To Get Relief From Burning Eyes

If a household product gets in your eyes and causes burning, the first thing you should do is check the product label for specific instructions. In many cases, you will be able to safely rinse your eyes to alleviate the burning sensation.

For example, children and adults often get sunscreen in their eyes during the warmer months. Though the burning or stinging may initially be significant, rinsing your eyes gently with clean water often will provide quick relief. (See sidebar below: “What to Do if You Get Sunscreen in Your Eyes.”)

If you are an allergy sufferer, your doctor may prescribe specific eye drops that can minimize the burning you might usually experience during allergy season. These drops differ from oral allergy medicines, which can sometimes cause eyes to burn by drying them out.

If you are taking an allergy medication, or any other medication that you believe is causing your eyes to burn, make sure you discuss your concerns with your doctor before discontinuing use.

Burning eyes caused by a dry eye condition usually can be relieved with frequent use of lubricating eye drops (also called artificial tears). When selecting a brand of artificial tears, consider one that is preservative-free — particularly if you plan to use the drops frequently. If your discomfort continues, let your doctor know, since there are other dry eye treatments that may be more effective and also help relieve your burning eyes.

Cool compresses gently applied over your closed eyelids also can help soothe burning eyes.

SEE ALSO: How to Use Eye Drops Without Spilling >

When To Call A Doctor

If your burning eyes are accompanied by pain or excessive light sensitivity, or if you have any eye discharge, blurred vision, eye floaters or flashes of light, double vision or other unexpected symptoms, contact your eye doctor right away for immediate attention.

Even if none of these additional symptoms occur, you should contact your eye doctor if your eyes continue to burn for more than a few days.

NEED AN EYE EXAM? Find an eye doctor near you and schedule an appointment.

Did You Know?

What To Do If You Get Sunscreen In Your Eyes

Sunscreen is an absolute must for both children and adults to protect skin from the sun’s dangerous UV rays. But these products cause more than their fair share of burning eyes.

Getting sunscreen in your eyes at the beach is a common cause of burning eyes.

Although sunscreen won’t usually cause any permanent damage, if you get it in your eyes it can cause significant discomfort and eye inflammation.

If you get sunscreen in your eyes, the first thing you should do is remove your contact lenses. Next, flush your eyes with a lubricating eye drop or artificial tear if you have either product handy. If not, you can use tap or fresh bottled water.

(It’s important to know, though, that tap water can harbor microorganisms that can cause serious eye infections such as Acanthamoeba keratitis. So it’s always a good idea to take a bottle of sterile eye wash liquid or artificial tears with you to the beach.)

Cold, wet compresses over closed eyes also help ease the sting of sunscreen in the eyes.

You can help the burning subside even quicker by frequently applying preservative-free lubricating eye drops (every 20 minutes or so) until you feel better.

Also, if you wear contact lenses, consider switching to daily disposable contacts so you can immediately replace your lenses with fresh ones if you get a pair contaminated with sunscreen.

Page updated October 2016

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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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Artificial Tears

When to use them. Artificial tears are your go-to drops for dry eyes. Their main job is to keep the surface of your eyes nice and moist.

What’s in them. They try to mimic real tears, but it turns out, that’s pretty complicated. So various brands use different mixes of ingredients, such as:

  • Lubricants to keep your eyes moist (all artificial tears will have some)
  • Electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, which can help heal the surface of your eye
  • Guar gum, found in more oily drops. It can be a big help if you get dry eyes because your tears dry up quickly.
  • Preservatives to keep bacteria from growing in the bottle of drops

You may need to try different brands to see which one works best for your eyes.

Watch out for preservatives. Artificial tears with them can be great because they’re often cheaper. But for some people, they can make dry eyes worse. Some people are allergic to preservatives, and others may find that they irritate their eyes.

Avoid artificial tears that contain preservatives if:

  • They bother your eyes.
  • Your dry eye is severe.
  • You use drops more than four to six times a day.

When you’re looking for preservative-free eye drops, note that they don’t come in the typical eye drop bottle. You usually find them in single-use vials instead. You snap the lid off, put the drops in, and throw out the vial. They also tend to be more expensive than other kinds.

I’m Using My Eye Drops But My Eyes Are Still Dry!

Improving Your Dry Eye Symptoms

If using a good artificial tear drop on schedule four times a day is not improving your symptoms, or worse yet, has made you feel even worse, there are a few things to consider. If your eyes burn and are even redder than before, you may have a sensitivity to that particular eye drop or to the preservatives in that eye drop.

One option is switching to artificial tears in “individual use droppers,” because they do not have preservatives. These one-time droppers are also a good option if you are using your teardrops more than five or six times a day, as the preservatives can dry eyes out even more when used too frequently. They are typically a bit more expensive and must be used immediately after opening. So, for example, you can put a drop of the tears in each eye, but then discard the rest of the dropper because if you “recap” the bottle, it can get bacterial growth inside the container which you would put in your eye during the next use because they, by definition, do not have preservatives.

If you are using your teardrops (preserved or non-preserved) four or more times a day and still feel irritation and dryness, you may need more treatment. The next thing I would recommend is using an artificial tear ointment. It is similar to teardrops but has the consistency of Vaseline. It is best applied immediately before laying down to go to sleep at night because it does blur vision.

Then when you wake up in the morning, do a good eyelid scrub with either baby shampoo, Cetaphil face wash, or a pre-made lid scrub like those made by Ocusoft. You can put a few drops of the soap in a cup with water, and use a q-tip to scrub the base of the eyelashes gently. Follow the scrub with a warm compress for about 5-10 minutes.

The reason these things help is that your tears must have three components: Oil, Water, and Mucus, and they must all be in the right “amount” to have a happy, healthy ocular surface. When the oil glands in your eyelids get plugged, the oil gets hard, similar to the consistency of Crisco. When you heat Crisco in a skillet, it becomes clear and coats the bottom of the pan. This coating is what your eyes need. Scrubbing the eyelid margins helps remove the oil plugging the opening, and using a warm compress encourages it to coat the ocular surface naturally.

Combining teardrops with good eyelid hygiene and warm compresses is helpful for many patients, and is typically inexpensive. The only thing you have to lose is your dry eye symptoms!

Take Home Points:

• Moderate dry eyes still feel dry despite using scheduled tear drops 4-6 times per day
• Can try switching to a preservative-free formulation
• Can add warm eyelid compresses or eyelid scrubs which helps release oil to coat the surface of the eye and hold your tears on your eye longer

Overusing Eye Drops – Not a Pretty Sight

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How to succeed at eye drop treatment: It’s all in your

Take Home Points

  • The average patient only takes 70% of their drops—don’t be average

  • The chief problem is forgetting, and you don’t know you forgot

  • Using memory aids can dramatically improve drop taking

  • Link the drops to something else you do, keep them out in plain sight

  • Target should be lower if damage is greater or risk is higher

  • Follow the 13 tips for taking drops

Your ability to put a drop on the eye every day means that you are in charge of keeping your vision with glaucoma. But, as we’ll see, the secrets of succeeding with drops are as much your head and your wallet as they are in how well you do with the mechanics of eye drop taking. In the next section, we’ll talk about the specific medicines now available as glaucoma drops (Glaucoma eye drops: choices, choices)see section Glaucoma eye drops: choices, choices. Here, we’ll talk about how to get the drop in your eye and how to remember to do it.

The dirty little secret of glaucoma drops (until recently) was similar to what used to be a humorous description of the Soviet Russian economy, where salaries were low and no one really did much work. The joke by Soviet workers was: “I pretend to work and they pretend to pay me”. For glaucoma, it was: “I pretend that I take all my drops and the doctor acts like I take them all”. Twenty-five years ago, researchers put an early computer in an eye drop bottle and found that patients were taking only 3 out of 4 of their drops—even when the bottles were handed out free.

Studies done in the last 5 years by our Wilmer Glaucoma Center of Excellence have confirmed that little has changed. What we know is very disturbing:

  • Of patients who are given a new prescription for glaucoma drops, 25% never fill the second one after getting their first bottle. They had not stopped because the doctor had switched them to another drop).

  • Of those who fill the second prescription, only half of all the patients are still taking their drops regularly at the end of the first year (Figure 20). This includes those who switched or went on to surgery or something else.

Figure 20: Refilling Medications. A graph showing that many patients stop refilling prescriptions for their glaucoma drops over time. By one year, less than half were still on drops. Some types of drops had better persistence with drop taking than others.

We gave our own patients free glaucoma drops and told them we were going to monitor how many drops they took using an electronic counter on their bottle that recorded when they took the drops. Even though we told them we were keeping track of when they took the drops and urged them to do their best to take them every day, the average patient took only 70% of the drops. Amazingly, when we interviewed these folks and asked how many drops they thought they were taking, they said they were taking 95% or more. I know and respect these patients and I suspect that they believe that they are taking all the drops. So it isn’t that they are lying to me. Most of them just don’t know that they missed the drops—that’s why we call it forgetting. Now with pills, if you have 31 pills to take in a month, when you get to the end of the month and there are 5 pills left, you know you screwed up. With eye drop bottles there’s no such clue. If you don’t have an iron-clad reminder system, you will forget.

While it isn’t an excuse, patients taking pills for long term diseases that have no symptoms (like high blood pressure) do just as badly as glaucoma patients at remembering to take their meds. There’s only one kind of chronic medication that does far better than this, where patients take 100% of the pills on time. It’s the erectile dysfunction drugs (no surprise there).

Some of our patients took only 20% of the drops. These folks with big adherence problems have some characteristics we can identify. They may have serious memory issues, such as dementia. They may not understand that the drops must go in every day, which means there was a lack of appropriate education. They may have a personality that allows them to ignore that glaucoma can blind you. This is called denial. They do not have a family member with glaucoma. They aren’t as likely to have taken the time to find out about glaucoma. By reading this you’re marking yourself as someone who is more likely to win by taking drops better. Congratulations! But, if two or more of the statements above apply to you, you may have more trouble remembering drops than you think.

Patients do best with drops right after the doctor visit, tail off between visits, then start using them better again during the week coming up to the visit. We all floss and brush our teeth like mad just before seeing the dentist, so this behavior is understandable though unfortunate. The secret to preventing vision loss is to be consistent and to take drops every day in between visits. As we’ll see below, the key to making this happen is to use memory aids that are as strong every day as that “just before going to see the doctor” motivation.

One of the surprises of our studies was that we thought eye drop side effects were a big cause of not taking drops properly. We found just the opposite! Those who reported redness or stinging or blurring from drops were more likely to be taking them. We should have realized that if you’re not taking drops very often, you won’t have any side effects. Not that the side effects are that bad—after all, those who reported some minor side effects from drops were taking 9 out of 10 drops dutifully.

So, how can we help patients do better with their drops? Our group has done two big studies that show that effective memory aids work very well. Those who were using only half of their drops improved dramatically after we helped them to do a better job. We tried several ways to remind them. First, we used an alarm that beeped when it was time for the drops. Second, we used telephone calls, emails or text messages at the time that they were supposed to take the drop. These simple efforts helped patients succeed in controlling their glaucoma.

There are some simple memory aids that you can use to help you take all the drops as prescribed. Nearly everyone now has a cell phone with an alarm feature. It can be set to alarm every day or every 12 hours at eye drop time. There are “apps” that can be downloaded free that act as drug reminder alarms. Partners and spouses can remind you to take drops. We call this acceptable nagging. A paper calendar sheet and a pencil can be set next to the drop bottle as a low tech answer. Every time the drop is taken an X is put on the paper. By checking at the end of month, patients can see when they’re forgetting. An example is the patient who found that no drops were getting in every Wednesday night. Wednesday was bridge club night and she came home late and was missing the drops. Anything that changes your usual daily routine will be likely to cause you to forget your drops. This is especially true of travelling away from home.

Memory aids to remember drops

  • Link drop time to something else you always do

  • Alarm clock or cell phone alarm set for eye drop time

  • Spouse or family member who reminds you every day

  • Paper calendar sheet and pencil to record drop taking

  • Be careful to remember drops when away from home

  • Don’t hide the bottles in refrigerator or medicine cabinet

It also matters what time of day the drops are supposed to be used. Patients who plan to take drops every night at bedtime should not get into bed and start reading or watching T.V. before their drops go in, because they are likely to fall asleep and forget to take the drops. Make sure you take the drop whenever you do something you always do, like taking a morning pill, shaving, or putting the coffee pot on to brew. Out of sight, out of mind: don’t put drops in the refrigerator or the medicine cabinet. The prostaglandin drops do NOT need refrigeration despite misinformation still being given by some drug stores in their “information” sheets (see section Glaucoma eye drops: choices, choices).

The doctor should be part of the solution (and our studies show that some doctors are part of the failure to achieve perfect drop taking). When we studied the behavior of eye doctors with their glaucoma patients, we found they could be grouped into 3 camps, which we called skeptics, reactives, and idealists. The skeptics simply wrote the prescription for drops and acted as if it was up to the patient to take it. When their patients didn’t take drops well, they felt that there was nothing that could be done. The reactive group of doctors was willing to try to help patients with adherence with treatment when it was pretty obvious that there was trouble. The final group is one that we hope will be emulated by young doctors in training. These were the idealists—and actual data shows that their patients take their drops better.

Idealist doctors realize that taking medicine is a shared activity between doctor and patient. They establish a non-judgmental environment. For example, they discuss with patients how hard it is to remember to take every drop and agree that it is only human to forget sometimes. They ask questions in an open-ended way that lets patients talk about the problems that they’re having. They listen. The skeptic-type and reactive-type doctors in our studies did most of the talking during video-taped study of actual glaucoma visits. They asked closed questions like: “you’re taking your drops, right?” for which patients would have to be pretty bold to say “No”. Ideal doctors give patients a chance to tell them what they do and don’t know about glaucoma. We did a study in which we asked veteran glaucoma patients to tell us what the drops were intended to do. Unfortunately, there were some who didn’t understand that drops lower eye pressure and that lowering pressure stopped vision from getting worse. It is too often that we hear: “I’m taking the drops, doctor, but my vision doesn’t seem to be getting better”. That means we haven’t properly educated our patients on how glaucoma treatment stops further damage, but does not restore vision. Finally, ideal doctor behavior is to prescribe only the amount of drops needed, and to keep it as simple as possible.

It’s hard enough to remember to take the drops, but using the drops effectively requires more thought than most people realize. Information about drop-taking is unfortunately based on very little scientific data, and pharmacies and drug companies (despite what should be the case) don’t always help you to use the right amount of drug efficiently. If you sell a product by the bottle, then having someone use it up as fast as possible makes more money. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, capitalism is the worst form of economic system, except for all the others. We don’t have to feel sorry for drug companies and drug store chains—they’re making nice profits. But, if you ever had drops come pouring out of a bottle as soon as you began tipping it up toward your eye, you realize that the bottles aren’t designed to be easy to use (at least some aren’t).

Here are the Lucky 13 ways you can get glaucoma eye drops into the eye and not on the floor, while being effective at lowering eye pressure (and saving money). (Figure 21, Figure 22)

  1. Face the ceiling when putting drops in. Maybe teenagers can look in a mirror, tilt their head way back and get a drop in the eye, but for most of us, several drops wind up on the floor that way. Get horizontal when taking drops, tilt your head way back while sitting in a big comfy chair or better, lie flat in bed.

  2. Brace the back of the hand with the bottle on your forehead before tipping it up. We all have tremors and having the bottle waving around without support hurts your aim.

  3. Next, before you tilt the bottle over, look up to see that the tip is over the nose half of your eye. Since you’re going to be looking through the top of your head (see below) when the drop falls, you can’t (and don’t want to) see it falling anyway. If any of the drop falls on the area on the nose side of the eye, even if some hits the edge of the eyelid or the inner corner, enough will get on the eye surface to do the job. If you miss on the temple side, it’s likely to treat the glaucoma in your ear, not your eye.

  4. Pull down the lower eyelid of the eye with the hand that isn’t holding the bottle. This increases the target on the white part of the eye. As soon as the drop hits the eye, you can let go.

  5. Let the bottle deliver as you tip it over and only squeeze if it doesn’t come out by itself. This means that you will tip the bottle over, above the nose side of the eye, and let it fall by gravity from about 2 inches or less. Some bottles start having drops come out right away. If the drop doesn’t come out by itself, squeeze gently until it does.

  6. Use only one drop per eye! Yes, I know that some bottles say put in 2 drops (so does the information sheet from some drug stores). That’s a huge waste. Each drop (which has from 25-50 microliters of fluid) contains probably 5 times more drug than is needed for each treatment. So even if you have 80% of it go somewhere else than on the eye surface, you’re OK. Furthermore, using two drops gives you a greater chance for bad effects on the rest of the body. When you put medicine on the eye, it mixes with the tears, and this drains into the nose through the lacrimal (tear) system in the corner of the eye near the nose. That’s why you sometimes taste drops in your nose and throat when you take them. It’s also why cocaine abusers snort drug up their nose—it’s an effective method to get drugs into the body and head. The same goes for eye drops, but with drops you want the least amount anywhere else other than on the front of the eye.

  7. As soon as you hit the eye with drop, close the eyelids and don’t blink for 60 seconds. We’re now onto some pretty thin ice, scientifically. There is some evidence that not blinking leaves the drop on the eye longer—thus making it go into the eye more. But, when we tested the actual pressure lowering with and without the don’t blink instruction, it didn’t make a substantial difference. So it makes sense not to blink, but we can’t say it has definitive support.

  8. Many doctors teach patients to push on the inner nose for 1 minute after putting the drop on the eye, to block the lacrimal drain area and keep drops out of the nose, throat and the rest of the body. Certainly, this naso-lacrimal occlusion makes logical sense, and there is evidence that for children this can reduce the level of drug that can be found in the blood stream after drops—which is a really good idea if you are someone sensitive to the general body effects of whichever drop you are using. However, very few of my patients are doing nasolacrimal occlusion correctly when I ask them to show me where they’re pushing. The fingers must be far back from the bridge of the nose (almost poking the eye) and pushing almost hard enough to hurt in order to stop drug from going to the nose.

  9. After the drop hits and you close your eyes, some will be on the skin of the eyelids. Blot off the excess, since some of us are sensitive to it or may have an actual allergy to the drug or its component parts. We don’t want to expose the skin daily to something that may lead to itching, redness, and puffy lids. This requires having facial tissues around before you start putting in drops.

  10. You can treat one eye at a time, close, blot, push the nose, and then treat the other eye in the same way. Or, if you’re a veteran and can hit both eyes pretty quickly, you can do drop right, drop left and close both, blot both, and push on both sides of the inner nose with the thumb and forefinger for the 60 seconds. If you need to take more than one kind of drop at that time of day, it’s faster to do both eyes at once.

  11. Wait between two types of drop on the same eye. Many glaucoma patients need to use more than one drug to keep pressure at target. They may have two or three bottles to put in, morning and evening. If you put in drop 1 and in less than 60 seconds you put in drop 2, the second one will wash away the first one and you’re not getting the full effect of either one. Now the controversy: how long to wait between bottles? I’ve heard doctors tell patients to wait 15 minutes! This would mean that the person with 3 kinds of drops would need half an hour to get the medicine in. There are no conclusive studies of how long to wait. I suggest that the shortest possible time should be 2 minutes, and if you have a system that lets you wait 5 minutes it’s possibly better. However, humans being humans, I know that if you put in drop 1, then say—I’ll just dry the dishes and come back for the second drop, you’re more likely than not to forget to come back. Don’t walk away until they’re all in.

  12. If you’re using more than one type of drop, the order in which they go in doesn’t matter.

  13. Running out of medicine can be a big cause of non-adherence. Many pharmacy plans give you either a 1 month or a 3 month supply of drug. They don’t usually give you more than you need and typically it is just barely enough if you use one drop at a time. The biggest cause of running out of drug is using too much each time. Use one drop if possible! A second cause for running out is not planning ahead. If you’re going to the beach, you won’t forget the beach chairs, but an astonishing number of people leave their eye drops at home. Most doctors can fill a new bottle at the ocean-side drug store, but you’ll probably pay full price for it. There is a third rule of drops, namely, the bottle always runs out late on Friday night after the doctor’s office is closed. Give things a shake on Thursday and see if you’re going to need more. Fourth, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) puts an “expiration date” on drop bottles. This is something to look for when the druggist gives you a 3 month supply—make sure they won’t already have expired before the 3 months is up. Finally, a very disturbing (but understandable) finding in one research project was that needing to use a second eye drop type every day led some patients to delay refilling the first bottle until they needed to get both bottles filled. Some drops come as combinations of two types in one bottle and this may help you with this problem.

Figure 21: Taking Eye Drops. Illustrations of bad drop taking (left) and good drop taking (right). See text for detailed descriptions.

Figure 22: More on Taking Eye Drops. The left drawing shows how to aim for the nose side of the eye to help to get drops in with one drop only. This picture is drawn as if looking down from the ceiling, since your face should be aimed at the ceiling when doing drops properly (Figure 21). Right drawing illustrates where the fingers are placed to do nasolacrimal occlusion to keep eye drops from going into the nose, throat and rest of the body.

Take Home Points: 13 tips for taking eye drops effectively

  • Face the ceiling

  • Brace the back of the hand with the bottle on your forehead

  • Look up to see that the tip is over the nose half of your eye

  • Pull down the lower eyelid

  • Let the bottle deliver by itself

  • Use only one drop per eye!

  • Don’t blink for 60 seconds

  • Push on the inner nose: nasolacrimal occlusion

  • Blot off the excess

  • You can treat one eye at a time

  • Wait between two types of drop

  • The order in which two drop types go in doesn’t matter

  • Running out can be a big cause of non-adherence

Some final aspects of drop taking. When asked to take them twice a day, patients ask if it has to be exactly 12 hours apart. Ideally, yes—but, practically, of course not. It’s good enough to hit it two times, one early in the day and one late in the evening. Peg it to something you do at each time, and when you finish the morning dose, and will take the night dose at bedtime, move the bottle to where you’ll see it at night (and back after the night dose to where you do the morning dose, if that’s a different place). It is totally wrong, however, to take twice a day drops at 9 am and 10 am. Space it out as close to 12 hours apart as much as possible.

Some drops were approved by the FDA to be taken 3 times per day. In desperate circumstances I ask patients to do this. They have to think up elaborate schemes for how they’re going to take the bottles along wherever they are and how to remember in the middle of a busy day to take them. Generally, I’d rather think of a different way to manage their glaucoma.

How to Use Eye Drops

These instructions can help you put eye drops into your own eyes. If you’re a parent or caregiver, these steps can also help you give drops to another person. If you have trouble putting drops into your own eyes, ask a family member or friend to help you.


  1. Gather your supplies. These include the bottle of eye drops as well as a tissue or other cloth to wipe away excess drops.
  2. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry them with a clean towel or a paper towel. If soap and water aren’t available, you can use hand sanitizer instead.
  3. If directed on the label or by your doctor or pharmacist, gently shake the bottle.
  4. Remove the cap from the bottle and place it on its side on a clean surface.
  5. Check the dropper tip to make sure it’s clean. If it’s dirty, throw the bottle of drops away and get a new one.

Putting in the drops

  1. Tilt your head back or lie down flat on your back. Pull your lower eyelid down with your finger to form a pouch or pocket where the eye drop will go.
  2. Hold the bottle over your eye, with the dropper tip facing down. The dropper tip should be as close to your eye as possible without touching your eye. You can support the hand that’s holding the bottle by resting your wrist against your forehead.
  3. Look up. Squeeze the bottle so that a single drop falls into the pouch you made with your lower eyelid.
  4. Close your eye gently and tilt your face toward the floor for two to three minutes. Try to avoid blinking, moving your eyeball, or squeezing your eyelids tightly shut.
  5. While your eye is closed, use one finger to apply gentle pressure to the inside corner of the eye. This stops the medication from draining into your nasal passages and getting into your mouth or throat.
  6. Use a tissue or other cloth to wipe away any excess liquid from around your eyes.

Finishing up

  1. If you need to put a second eye drop into the same eye, wait at least five to 10 minutes after putting in the first drop.
  2. Put the cap back on the bottle. Don’t touch the dropper tip or try to clean it.
  3. Wash your hands to remove any medication that got on them.
  4. Store the bottle as described on the label or by your doctor or pharmacist.

What causes burning eyes?

Share on PinterestDry eyes, sunburn, and pterygium can cause a burning sensation.

Stinging or irritation of the eyes is often referred to as burning eyes. Common causes of burning eyes include:


Blepharitis is characterized by flaky, dandruff-like skin at the base of the eyelids. It is caused by a bacterial infection. Additional symptoms include eye redness and swelling.

Dry eyes

Dry eyes can result when the tear ducts do not produce enough tears or the right kind of tears. Dry eyes tend to occur more often in women and older people. Additional symptoms can include:

  • pain
  • eye redness
  • heavy-feeling eyelids
  • blurred vision

Eye allergies

Also known as allergic conjunctivitis, eye allergies occur when irritating substances get into the eye. The body responds to these substances by producing histamines, which can cause burning eyes.

Common triggers of eye allergies include dust, pollen, smoke, perfumes, pet dander, and foods.

Other symptoms of eye allergies include:

  • redness
  • tearing swelling
  • itching of the eyes

Eye sunburn

Overexposure to the ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun’s rays can cause eye sunburn, which is also known as photokeratitis.

In addition to burning eyes, symptoms include:

  • light sensitivity
  • pain
  • a gritty feeling
  • watering
  • halos around lights

Ocular rosacea

Ocular rosacea is a condition that causes inflammation of the eyelids. It affects people who have acne rosacea, a skin condition characterized by redness and flushing on the face.

Additional symptoms of ocular rosacea include:

  • pain
  • light sensitivity
  • vision loss in severe cases


Pterygium is a growth of fleshy tissue on the white part of the eye. It usually occurs nearest to the nose, although it can also appear on the outer portion of the eye. It is thought to be caused by a combination of dry eyes and UV light.

Symptoms include:

  • burning eyes
  • itching
  • redness
  • swelling

In some cases, the growth can extend to cover the cornea, which can affect vision.


Click here to read an article from May 2007 Eyelights
about Eye Drop Aids

Do’s and Don’ts with your Drops

  1. Spread your drops out through the day: If a drop is prescribed to be used twice a day, try to space them by 12 hours. If the drop is prescribed three times a day, it should be every eight hours. If you sleep more than eight hours, use the drop on waking, at approximately 2:30 in the afternoon, and again just before sleep.
  2. When multiple drops are used in the same eye, it is important to wait at least 5 minutes between drops. Waiting longer is OK but if you put the drops in too close together, the second drop may wash out the first.
  3. Close your eye after putting drop in: the drops work best if you keep your eye closed for around two minutes without blinking. Put pressure on the corner of your eye. This helps the solution to be absorbed directly into the eye and will also prevent getting some side effects.
  4. Make sure you don’t run out of drops: When glaucoma medicines are prescribed, it is expected that you will use them until your doctor tells you they may be discontinued. If you are running low on drops and need a refill, please telephone your doctor to organise a prescription.

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