If You're Using This OTC Medication Daily, See a Doctor

Health experts say doing this will provide temporary relief but long-term issues.

When it comes to everyday pain, many of us turn to different over-the-counter (OTC) products to counteract these issues. However, just because something is OTC doesn't mean it's safe if you use it incorrectly. And that's an issue many health experts say ends up happening with OTC eye drops. According to these health professionals, if you're using eye drops too often then you're actually using them wrong. Read on to find out why frequent eye drop usage is not recommended, and for more problems with your eyes, This Is Why You Shouldn't Lie to Your Eye Doctor About Floaters.

"If you're using eye drops every day, you should talk to your doctor," says Michael Orozco, OD, an optometrist with MCOA Eyecare in San Antonio, Texas. "The use of eye drops should be temporary. For long-term, your doctor can recommend a permanent treatment program including blinking exercises, and anti-inflammatory medications [and] treatments to unclog the tear glands."

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), there are two kinds of OTC eyedrops you're most likely to encounter: artificial tears and redness-relieving drops. Orozco says artificial tears are used in patients who have dry eyes, as they "replace the tear film that your body should be naturally producing." However, they're only meant to provide brief relief.

"Many over-the-counter artificial tears contain preservatives that can cause damage to the delicate skin on the surface of the eye if used frequently," Orozco explains. "And, if used frequently, they may be masking an underlying disease process that needs to be identified and treated. "

According to Orozco, artificial tears are made mostly of salt and water to help temporarily relieve pain from dry eyes, but they actually "lack the natural oils, minerals, and protective enzymes" found in real teardrops. So while you may feel relief in the moment, it's no substitute for natural tear film.

"If you are using drops frequently but still feel grittiness, stinging, burning, debris on the lids margins, or blurry vision, then you need to address the root cause of the problem, and stop treating just the symptoms," he says. "Failure to treat the underlying disease will allow the disease to progress, often causing permanent damage to the tear glands and ocular surface."

The other type of OTC eye drops, redness-relieving drops, typically reduces redness by "constructing conjunctival blood vessels," says Benjamin Ticho, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist who specializes in cataracts, glaucoma, and strabismus treatment.

"While generally temporarily effective in reducing redness, they are not treating the cause of the blood vessel dilation, just covering up the undesirable appearance," Ticho says.

Even worse, these drops typically have a "rebound effect" that makes eyes worse off than they were with just the initial redness, according to Ticho. And that's usually what causes people to enter a vicious cycle of reusing redness-relieving drops too often. He says he recommends these eye drops for temporary use prior to an important event, but not for regular use—especially daily use.

Of course, there could be a number of health problems that are making you reach for eye drops. If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, keep reading to find out what underlying issues your OTC drops could be covering up. And for more reasons your eyes might be in pain, This Is How You're Destroying Your Eyes Without Knowing It.

1
Burning

young woman rubbing her eye and holding eyeglasses. She is suffering with aching eyes while working long hours on computer at home.
iStock

Burning eyes could be the result of something minuscule, such as allergies or the weather. However, according to CCT Eyes, it could also be a sign of something more serious, like blepharitis, pink eye, or even rheumatoid arthritis. And for eye concerns you shouldn't worry about, ditch these Health Myths About Your Eyes You Need to Stop Believing.

2
Blurry vision

Shot of a young businessman experiencing stress during late night at work
iStock

Blurry vision could simply mean you need to invest in a pair of glasses, but there could be something else to it—especially if you experience blurry vision suddenly and not consistently. According to Heathline, this could mean you're having a stroke, or that you're experiencing pink eye, high blood sugar, early multiple sclerosis, or lupus. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

3
Dry eyes

Man with dry tired eyes
Shutterstock

According to the American Optometric Association, dry eyes is a common experience for many people. However, just because it's common doesn't mean it couldn't be the result of something serious. In fact, they note that "people with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes." And for more ways to tell if you're at risk of diabetes, This Quick Trick Can Determine Your Diabetes Risk, Study Says.

4
Feeling like something is in your eyes

Woman rubbing her eyes in pain because she is using her cell phone
Shutterstock

Foreign body sensation (FBS), the feeling of having something in your eye, could mean that something is literally in your eye. But if you can't locate the source and eye drops have not helped, it might be something else. This could include pink eye, blepharitis, or other inflammatory conditions of the eye's surface, per the AAO. And for more significant health concerns, check out these Subtle Signs Your Body Is Telling You Something's Seriously Wrong.

Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
Filed Under