Dry eyes and eye irritation can occur for a number of reasons. You may have been the victim of a stinging, cold wind in your face, or you might have been staring at your computer screen a little too long without blinking.

In addition, some medications can cause dry eyes as a side effect, and some medical conditions and diseases cause various types of inflammation, dryness, irritation, and swelling.

Even advancing age can cause your eyes to be drier than they used to be.

Luckily, artificial tears are available for instant soothing and relief.

These come in the form of eye drops, gels, and ointments. They’re a common treatment for eye irritation, dry eyes, itching, burning, and inflammation.

You can buy them over-the-counter, but there is usually a wide selection of choices in the drugstore aisle that may confuse you. For example, not all brands of eye drops are good for treating all eye problems. Some will work better for you than others.

To make the best decision for your eyes, here are the different types of tears and eye drops out there. This includes which are best for certain eye conditions.


3 Types of Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

The best artificial tears for you will depend on how often you need to use them and the severity of your eye problem.

The good news is most eye drops contain lubricating ingredients that moisturize your eyes and provide relief. Most saline eye drops even contain electrolytes that can help heal the eyes’ surface, as well as thickeners that help the formula stay put on the cornea.

No matter what, the right lubricating eye drops will moisturize dry eyes and soothe any irritation you may be experiencing. If they cause any additional problems, you should discontinue use immediately.


1. Eye Drops with Preservatives

Some eye drop formulas contain preservatives to help prevent the growth of bacteria once the bottle is opened. This type of formula can be irritating for many people, which defeats the purpose of using eye drops in the first place.

However, to alleviate this problem, many eye drops come in formulas with preservatives that “vanish” when exposed to air or your tears. This doesn’t mean they disappear – instead, they turn into a non-toxic chemical or water.


2. Preservative-Free Eye Drops

Preservative-free eye drops have fewer additives than ones made with preservatives. This makes them ideal if you find you need to use them more than a couple of times a day, or if you have moderate to severe dry eyes.

These are perhaps the best eye drops for dry eyes because they’re gentler and non-irritating.

Most preservative-free types come in single-dose units. This helps keep them sanitary (i.e. it prevents you from accidentally touching the tip of the applicator between uses), but it also means they’re more expensive.


3. Eye Gels and Ointments

Eye gels and ointments are generally thicker than eye drops, which means they’ll stay on the surface of your eyes longer. This makes them ideal for overnight relief.


How to Apply Eye Drops and Artificial Tears

If you’ve never applied eye drops or eye gel before, it can be a bit intimidating. Here’s a quick run-down of how to do it.


How to Apply Eye Drops

1. Tilt back your head slightly. Pull down your lower eyelid with a finger. This should create a pocket where you can apply the eye drops or gel.

2. Hold the eyedropper above your eye. Point the tip down.

3. Look up, away from the applicator, and squeeze a drop of the formula so it hits the pocket between your eye and lower eyelid.

4. Close your eyes and tilt your head down. Keep them closed for 2-3 minutes without squinting or blinking.

5. Using gentle pressure, press your finger against your tear duct (at the inside corner of your eye) to keep the formula from draining into it.

6. If you need more than one drop, wait for around 5 minutes before applying the next one.


How to Apply Eye Gel

1. Start with step one from above.

2. Hold the tube of eye ointment or gel and point the tip toward the pocket you created in step one.

3. Squeeze out a small amount of gel, letting it hit the pocket. Don’t touch the tip of the tube to your eye.

4. Blink to help disperse the product over the surface of your eye.

5. Close your eyes for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess gel with a tissue.

Lastly, if you’re experiencing chronic dry eyes or irritation, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. You may have an underlying problem causing your eye irritation.

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