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Best eye drops for dry eyes 2021
Medically reviewed by Sharon Copeland on 28 September 2021
In order to understand the best eye drops for dry eyes, we first need to understand the tear film layer. When we blink, a tear film spreads over the eye making the surface smooth and clear. The tear film is made up of the following three layers:
- Mucin layer – this is the inner layer that keeps the whole tear fastened to the eye. It helps the watery layer spread evenly over the surface of the eye so that the eye remains moist. It also nourishes the cornea.
- Water (aqueous) layer - this is the middle layer (the thickest layer) comprised mostly of water. This layer keeps the the eye hydrated, repels bacteria and protects the cornea.
- Oil (lipid) layer – prevents other layers of the tear film from evaporating and keeps the surface of the tear film smooth for the eye to see through.
Each layer is needed for the tear film to keep our eyes moist. When any part of our tear film isn’t functioning properly, dry eye symptoms can occur.
Dry eyes can be an uncomfortable daily reality for many people. Dry and irritated eyes can be caused by external factors such as too much screen time, central heating or from wearing contact lenses. The following medications and conditions can also cause dry eyes:
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Contact dermatitis
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Bell’s palsy
- HRT/Oral contraceptives
- Hypertensive agents (beta blockers)
- Graves’ disease
- Acne medications (e.g. Roaccutane)
If you have one of the above conditions or take medication, talk to your consultant about any eye irritation you may experience.
Luckily, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes; one way is to use eye drops (also known as artificial tears). There are many eye drops on the market designed to aid different eye issues. All new eye drops contain hyaluronate which is used as lubricant for the tear film layer. Below we go through the best eye drops to treat dry eye syndrome.
Can you buy eye drops for dry eyes over the counter?
You can buy eye drops for dry eye over the counter as well as gels, ointments and supplements for dry eyes. Over the counter (OTC) eye drops usually contain lubricants and electrolytes, such as potassium and humectants. Humectants are used to help retain moisture.
Can you get dry eye drops on prescription?
You can get dry eye drops on prescription to treat chronic eye problems. For example, Cyclosporine is a prescription eye drop which treats inflammation caused by keratoconjunctivitis sicca (also known as dry eye syndrome). Cyclosporine increases tear production and is recommended for long term use, twice daily. This eye drop is available as a prescription only.
Most eye drops on prescription contain preservatives such as benzalkonium chloride (BAK). Frequent use of preservatives such as BAK are risky as they can cause dry eye symptoms to get worse by damaging the corneal surface and increasing inflammation.
Best eye drops for severe dry eyes
The best eye drops for severe dry eyes are preservative-free eye drops as these will not affect the corneal surface.
Eye ointment night creams for extreme dry eyes followed by eye drops such as Thealoz and Hycosan Extra are effective treatments. Steroid eye drops from a consultant can also be used to alleviate symptoms of severe dry eyes.
Best hydrating eye drops for dry eyes
Hycosan Extra Dry Eye Drops
Hycosan Extra Dry Eye Drops are incredibly hydrating making them an excellent choice for those with persistently dry and irritated eyes. The preservative-free formula, (ideal for sensitive eyes) contains 0.2% Hyaluronate (also known as hyaluronic acid), a natural substance which attracts moisture to the eyes and replenishes the tear film for intense hydration and effective relief. Hycosan Extra Dry Eye Drops can be used up to 6 months after opening.
Systane Hydration Eye Drops
Systane Hydration eye drops feature hyaluronate which has strong water retention and visco elastic properties. These properties combined increase corneal wettability and decrease friction during blinking.
The solution combines HP-Guar, Borate and Hyaluronate which upon instillation becomes elastic and spreads easily over the surface of the cornea. Between blinks the molecules of the combined HP-Guar, Borate and Hyaluronate formula stick to the mucin layer of the tear film. This provides increased hydration and keeps the solution on the ocular surface for longer compared to solutions containing Hyaluronate alone.
Systane Hydration creates a moisture layer that attaches to the cells in the epithelium, entrapping water and promoting greater hydration, lubrication, and protection than hyaluronate alone. This allows restoration of the damaged surfaces of the ocular surface in patients with dry eye syndrome.
Systane Hydration provides ultimate hydration and lubrication to soothe and moisturise dry and gritty eyes. Suitable for use with all soft contact lenses, including silicone hydrogel lenses, these eye drops will rewet your contact lenses so that your eyes are kept hydrated throughout wear. They offer temporary relief of burning and irritation due to dryness of the eye. These eye drops last up to three months after opening.
Systane Ultra Eye Drops
Systane Ultra eye drops will provide long lasting comfort and relief to dry eyes with its intensely hydrating formula. These eye drops are fast-acting and effective in combatting irritation and discomfort caused by dry eyes. By re-introducing moisture to your eyes, these eye drops rehydrate and replenish the tear film, battling the effects of central heating and excessive screen use, keeping your eyes nicely hydrated. These eye drops are suitable for use with silicone hydrogel and soft contact lenses. Systane Ultra must be discarded six months after opening.
Hycosan Plus is great for lubrication and also supports the healing of a damaged surface of the eye due to dry eye or surgical procedures, such as cataract surgery. This preservative-free eye drop is suitable for use with both soft and hard contact lenses and can be instilled 3 times a day or as often as you like. These eye drops must be discarded 6 months after opening.
Best eye drops for itchy tear ducts
Artelac Rebalance Eye Drops
Artelac Rebalance eye drops are an excellent choice to soothe recurrent dry, tired, and irritated eyes and help with itchy tear ducts. These innovative eye drops by Bausch & Lomb feature a unique formula which matches the pH of your natural tears to replenish the tear film and soothe itching and dryness. Artelac Rebalance contains hyaluronic acid, a hydrating agent naturally occurring in tears. The hyaluronic remains in place when the eye is open and becomes more fluid when blinking. It works with viscoelactor (PEG 8000) to strengthen the tear film without blurring vision. The Vitamin B12 in Artelac rebalance gives it its rose colour.
Artelac Rebalance should be applied 3-5 times a day but if required, it can be used as often as needed. It is safe to use with both soft and rigid gas permeable contact lenses. Once opened, these eye drops should be discarded after 2 months.
Clinitas Soothe Eye Drops
Clinitas Soothe uses sodium hyaluronate to hydrate the tear film and mimic the eye’s natural tears. The sodium hyaluronate binds with the mucin layer of the tear film for prolonged relief. It also helps to heal superficial keratitis by forming a protective coating which prevents further damage and speeds up corneal repair.
These eye drops can help to soothe itchy tear ducts, providing long-lasting comfort to dry eyes with its preservative-free formula. Clinitas Soothe Eye Drops are easy to use and offer convenience with a re-sealable dropper designed for daily use. Each dropper can be used for up to 12 hours after opening and contains 10-12 drops which are suitable to use with contact lenses.
Hycosan plus and Thealoz Duo Eye Drops are also great alternatives and can help with itchy tear ducts.
While the above products are excellent choices for soothing itchy tear ducts, they will not treat the root of the problem.
Itchy tear ducts can be a symptom of tear duct infection. When a tear duct becomes blocked and tears cannot drain away, bacteria can collect in the area and cause infection.
Inflammation from a cold or sinus infection may also cause a blocked tear duct which can lead to itching and infection.
Tear duct infections can cause the following:
- swelling of the lower eyelid’s inner corner
- pain in the lower eyelid’s inner corner
- excessive tearing
- discharge from the eye
- a high body temperature
The patient will need antibiotics to clear the infection. Wearing wrap sunglasses and blinking regularly can also aid treatment.
Best eye drops for dry watery eyes
Systane Balance Eye Drops
Systane Balance provides long lasting relief from evaporative dry eye symptoms such as burning and irritation, which can be caused by Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD). It is especially therapeutic when used with a heated eye mask such as our Optase Moist Heat Eye Mask. Signs of Meibomian Gland Dysfunction can be improved in just 4 weeks with Systane Balance. These eye drops restore the lipid layer of the tear film and help to protect the surface of the eye. They can be used before and after wearing contact lenses but not whilst wearing them.
Best eye drops for dry eyes after excess screen time
Hycosan Fresh Eye Drops
Hycosan Fresh is excellent for refreshing eyes after excess screen time; for example, if you’ve spent all day in front of a computer. These preservative-free eye drops are compatible with contact lenses and contain Sodium Hyaluronate and Euphrasia. Sodium Hyaluronate replenishes the tear film while Euphrasia reduces redness. These drops work on the mucin layer of the tear film to stop the watery part of the eye cascading off.
Hycosan Fresh can be used as and when needed throughout the day and should be discarded 6 months after opening.
Another eye drop that is great for dry eyes after excessive screen time is Hycosan Extra.
Other recommended dry eye drops
We stock a range of dry eye drops including preservative-free eye drops for severe dry eyes and intensive tears which require fewer applications. The following eye drops by Blink contain preservatives but turn preservative free once instilled in the eye. All the eye drops listed below are effective formulas for relieving dry and irritated eyes.
Blink Contacts Bottle Eye Drops
Blink Contacts Bottle can be used by all types of contact lens wearers. These eye drops soothe irritated eyes and ensure that your contact lenses stay hydrated, smooth, and comfortable all day long. They contain OcuPure preservative which turns preservative-free on the eye. You can instil these eye drops as often as required throughout the day; however, they must be discarded 45 days after opening.
Blink Intensive Tears Plus Eye Drops
Blink Intensive Tears Plus is an ultra-soothing eye gel drop. This product is thicker than Blink soothing eye drops, and you should remove your contact lenses before using this product to avoid any blurry vision. The viscosity hypotonic formulation provides all-day relief as these drops stay on the surface of your eyes for lasting comfort and protection. Ideal for contact lens wearers who suffer from dry, irritated or uncomfortable eyes, these drops are suitable to use day or night. Use these drops before the expiry date and within 45 days of opening. While these eye drops contain OcuPure preservative, this ingredient turns preservative free on the eye which means you can instil these eye drops as often as you need to throughout the day.
Blink Intensive Triple Action Eye Drops
Blink Intensive Triple Action eye drops utilise sodium hyaluronate and vitamin E to help dry and gritty eyes. These ingredients stop the tear film from evaporating, keeping eyes comfortable and healthy all day long. This 3-in-1 action eye drop reinforces the lipid layer of the tear film to provide moisture, protection and a soothing feeling that lasts for the entire day. Use these drops before the expiry date and within 90 days of opening. If you wear contact lenses, there is no need to remove them before use. These eye drops contain polyhexanide Methylbiguanide which becomes preservative free on the eye, therefore making them suitable for instillation as often as needed.
Blink Intensive Tears Eye Drops
Blink Intensive Tears will soothe tired eyes. Use these drops to rewet your lenses (they can be applied with your lenses still in) or use them alone to rehydrate eyes throughout the day. These eye drops are designed to mimic your natural tears for lasting comfort. Use before the expiry date and within 3 months of opening.
Best value: comfi Soothe Drops
comfi Soothe Drops offer incredible comfort and long-lasting relief at an affordable price. These drops are rich in sodium hyaluronate (HA), which replicates your natural tears, perfect for persistently dry eyes. These drops can be used with or without your contact lenses in, making them ideal for rewetting your lenses on the go. These drops will keep your eyes hydrated and protected from irritants like pollution, smoke and wind as well as excessive screen time. These drops must be used before the expiry date and discarded 60 days after opening.
Eye drops for dry eyes are best used in conjunction with supplements such as omega fish oils and eye mask compresses. For optimal results, we recommend taking Ocuvite Lutein and using a compress such as Optase Moist Heat Eye Mask.
Quick links:How to use eye drops
Guide to red eyes
Guide to itchy eyes