Artificial tears are OTC eyedrops used to lubricate dry eyes and help maintain moisture on the outer surface of the eyes. Such eyedrops may be used to treat dry eyes that result from aging, certain medications, a medical condition, eye surgery or environmental factors, such as smoky or windy conditions and computer use.
OTC Artificial tears are available without a prescription
Besides lubricating the eyes, some artificial tears also promote healing of the eyes and others work to decrease tear evaporation. Artificial tears may also contain thickening agents, which keep the solution on the surface of eyes much longer.
There are two broad categories of artificial tears:
- Eyedrops with preservatives. This type often comes in multidose bottles and contains chemicals (preservatives) that may prevent growth of bacteria once the bottle has been opened. The preservatives may irritate the eyes, especially if one has moderate or severe dry eyes.
- Preservative-free eyedrops. This type has fewer additives and is generally the recommended artificial tears that are used more than four times a day, or if one has moderate or severe dry eyes. Preservative-free eyedrops usually come in single-dose vials.
Artificial tears are also available as nonprescription gels and gel inserts. These may cause temporary blurred vision. Gels may be used prior to bedtime.