Can I Get Addicted to Eye Drops?

It starts innocently enough. Perhaps you put in some long hours on a computer screen, overindulged on food and drink, or spent time in a dry and dusty environment. Whatever the reason, your eyes are bloodshot, the whites colored pink or red due to dilated blood vessels. It’s not a flattering look, so you reach for a bottle of whitening eye drops and all is well — and white — again. 

At least, your eyes stay white for about two hours, when the effects of the medicated drops wear away. Reaching for the bottle, you reapply, and the redness fades. Soon, you’re using drops three or four times per day. Sometimes you might feel like there’s no reason your eyes should be so red, so often. 

Chances are, you’re right. Those eye drops that clear away the red may also hasten its return, an effect sometimes called rebound redness that may be masking other conditions. It’s possible to get addicted to eye drops. Fortunately, it’s an easy habit to kick. 

The ophthalmologists at IC Laser Eye Care regularly caution their patients against the regular use of eye drops designed to whiten red, bloodshot eyes. Though these products are readily available over the counter, they’re not meant to be a daily go-to to soothe or whiten your eyes. Overuse of whitening drops starts a cycle that keeps your eyes red and potentially undernourished. 

Vasoconstrictors

Whitening drops work by using medications that reduce the diameter of blood vessels, called vasoconstrictors. As the blood vessels in your eyes shrink under the effects of the medications, the redness disappears — temporarily. 

However, your eyes become red in the first place because your body senses a problem and in response dilates the vessels to increase blood flow. Overuse of vasoconstrictors makes the body work harder to increase the supply of nutrients to your eyes that are restricted by the eye drops. Eye redness is a necessary healing response from your body. While whitening drops may be handy on rare occasions, your eyes become dependent on the drops when they’re overused. 

A better alternative

Not all eye drops contain vasoconstrictors. Many products seek to match the formulation of your natural eye protection. These drops are classed as artificial tears. While they don’t contain chemicals like naphazoline or phenylephrine, as vasoconstrictors do, they can still soothe your eyes and relieve redness by naturally hydrating your eyes. 

The red response in the whites of your eyes is often due to the temporary or chronic condition of dry eye, an underproduction or imbalance in the layers of your natural tears. Artificial tears, also available over the counter, are a first-line treatment for dry eyes. 

If you have chronic problems with eye irritation, dryness, or redness, it’s time to visit us at IC Laser Eye Care for a closer look at the reasons for your condition. We’ve got three locations in the north Philadelphia area — in Philadelphia and Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, New Jersey — and you can book with the nearest office by phone or using our online link. There’s a solution for your red eyes. Let us help you find it today.

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