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Ask Dr. Schauer ~ Artificial Tears

“My son seems to use over-the-counter eye drops like an average person uses ChapStick. How much is too much? He’s a teenager and wears contact lenses.”

In general, for most artificial tears, you do not want to use them more than 4 times a day. The reason is because most types of artificial tears contain preservatives. The current literature suggests that if you use them more than 4 times per day, you can actually “overload” your eyes with preservative. This can lead to more discomfort and¬†redness, and creates the same type of “snowball effect” that over-using ChapStick will! You can get yourself into a vicious cycle.

However, there are preservative-free artificial tears available. Usually, these can be used as frequently as needed and most are safe to use over the top of your contact lenses.

Are there eye drops I should be wary of?

In a way, yes. Any drops that contain an ingredient to “get the red out” such as Visine or ClearEyes should only be used very sparingly and only on occasion. Overuse of these types of drops can cause side effects such as rebound redness, superficial punctate keratitis,¬†or dilate your pupils.

Is it okay to use eye drops with my contacts?

I would counter that question with another question: Why do you need to use eye drops in the first place? Is it because your contacts are uncomfortable or dry?

If so, sometimes it is better to re-evaluate the contact lenses instead. By changing lens materials, wearing schedules, or contact lens solutions, sometimes we are able to eliminate the problem in the first place. Then you won’t need eye drops at all!

If you are having problems with your contact lenses, make sure you bring up your concerns to your optometrist.


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The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.