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  • Bryan Cui

The Different Types of Eye Drops

Eye drops are a vital tool for optometrists and ophthalmologists alike. While they may be bothersome to use, it goes without saying that eye drops are crucial and important for maintaining healthy eyes. Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of different types of eye drops, all equally as necessary but with varying uses.

The first subsection of eye drops are known as artificial tears. Artificial tears are mainly used to combat dry eyes by moisturizing the surface of the eye through replicating human tears. Imitating tears, however, is fairly complicated. Thus, different brands often use a variety of different compounds in their products. The most common ingredients are lubricants, to keep the eye moist, and electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, to heal the surface of the eye. Usually, eye drops that come in multidose bottles will also contain preservatives, in order to prevent the growth of bacteria after the bottle has been opened. This usually is not an issue, nonetheless, people who have severe dry eyes or apply eye drops more than 4 times a day may experience irritation due to the preservatives. It is recommended that these people use non-preservative artificial tears instead.

The second type of eye drops are decongestant eye drops. Decongestant eye drops help with redness by narrowing the blood vessels in the eye area. The key to this medicine is an ingredient called vasoconstrictors. Vasoconstrictors shrink the blood vessels on the surface of the eye, making the redness go away. A downside is that decongestant drops must be used with caution, as using them for more than a few days can cause irritation and a worsening in the redness. Additionally, your eyes may become over reliant on the drops, and may become permanently red whenever you stop using them. This is known as “rebound redness”. Many of the problems, though, can be avoided by simply following the optometrist or ophthalmologist’s prescription.

The last type of eye drops are allergy eye drops. As the name suggests, allergy drops are primarily used for fighting eye symptoms due to allergic reactions, such as itchy, bloodshot or swollen eyes. These symptoms are typically caused by pollen, molds, pet dander, and other common allergens. There are also many different types of allergy drops. Antihistamine eye drops quickly ease allergy symptoms by blocking histamine, a chemical that your body produces during an allergic reaction. Anti-inflammatory eye drops, on the other hand, affect certain nerve endings and effectively change the way your body feels itchy. Additionally, the aforesaid decongestant eye drops can also be used to treat allergies, however, it is oftentimes inadvisable to use due to its potential risks. Some allergy eye drops are even a combination of two types of specialized eye drops. An example is antazoline phosphate, a type of antihistamine/decongestant hybrid that reduces itching, watering and redness. Moreover, there are also even more types of allergy drops in the medicine industry that are currently being used or developed.

Overall, it is clear that the world of eye drops is much more complicated and interesting than what it may seem. You have already probably taken numerous different types of eye drops during your life, without knowing the difference between them. Regardless of the type, each eye drop is vital for protecting the safety of your eyes, and it is important to appreciate the simple, yet effective eye medicine that is so easily accessible.


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