Better Me

Which Eye Drops Should I Choose?

It’s that time of year again. Your eyes are itchy, you sneeze constantly, and you wake up tired no matter what time you went to sleep. Seasonal allergies are just one of the many reasons you may be in the market for eye drops. But when you get to the drug store, you’re met with a row of eye drops listing active ingredients you can barely pronounce. How do you know which eye drops to buy? And will they even solve your problem, or simply treat the symptoms.

We spoke with Daniel Twelker, OD, PhD, an optometrist at Banner - University Medicine Multispecialty Services Clinic in Tucson, Arizona, to get some deeper insight into how eye drops should be chosen.

What Are Your Symptoms?

There are many reasons why you may be turning to eye drops to relieve your discomfort. Common cases include:

  • Red eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Teary eyes or eyes with discharge
  • Painful eyes

Dr. Twelker explained that eye drops can be useful in all of these cases but choosing the right ones can be difficult and may require a little help from an expert. He explained how each of these common cases should be treated and if eye drops should be part of the solution.

Red Eyes

If your eyes are regularly bloodshot or red, they are being irritated by something. Dr. Twelker explained that while over-the-counter (OTC) products like Visine or Clear Eyes could provide temporary relief and clarity, they do not solve the underlying issue. His recommendation is to seek out the real issue with the help of an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

Itchy Eyes

Itchy eyes are often a symptom of allergic conjunctivitis. “Over-the counter drops such as ketotifen fumarate ophthalmic solution (generic, Zaditor, or Alaway) can be very helpful twice a day,” commented Dr. Twelker. “Patanol (twice a day) and Pataday (once a day) are now available over-the-counter as well.” Despite the itchiness, try not to rub your eyes. Rubbing will only serve to irritate the eyes more and introduce bacteria into the eye. Try a cool compress to relieve the itching and see your doctor if the itchiness persists for several days.

Dry Eyes

The most common sensations for dry eyes include burning or something called “foreign body sensation.” You may feel like there is something in your eye, like sand or dust. It is a maddening sensation but try not to irritate your eye further by digging for something that isn’t there. Instead, Dr. Twelker recommended lubricating eye drops, such as Refresh, Systane, Genteal, Theratears ond others. Be sure to apply these drops before the burning sensation comes to avoid the irritating symptoms.

Eyes with Discharge and Painful Eyes

If your eyes are very teary or are producing a yellow-green discharge, you likely have bacterial or viral conjunctivitis. Prescription eye drops are used to treat these cases, which means if you are experiencing these symptoms you will need to see a doctor. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will be able to assess the infection and prescribe the appropriate drops.

Inflammation of the eye is likely to occur with both bacterial and viral infections. You may feel some pain or soreness as a result. Prescription eyes drops can also treat high pressure eyes as a result of the infection or glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. By the time you feel symptoms of glaucoma, it is likely too late, and the damage done to the nerve is often irreversible. Be sure to stick to regular appointments, even if you have perfect vision to make sure you are aware of your risk for glaucoma and take steps to prevent any damage to your eye.

Your vision is precious. Protect the health of your eyes by learning the risks and habits that could be causing damage every day. To find an optometrist or ophthalmologist in your area, visit

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