rewetting drops

Also known as artificial tears, these eye drops are designed to comfort and improve lubrication of the eyes. These can be bought over the counter and come with various trade names depending upon the manufacturer. Some popular brands are Soothe, Systane, Blink, and Refresh. Most of these drops contain the same ingredients, differing only by what preservative is used. All eye drops need preservatives (such as BAK) to keep them from getting colonized by bacteria floating in the air and on the eyelashes during use. Unfortunately, these preservatives can be harsh on the ocular surface, which is why we don’t recommend using artificial tears more than 4-5 times a day. There are preservative-free eye drops available that come in single use tear-off dispensers. These are great because they can be used frequently without irritating the eye. They can be expensive, however, and they are not as convenient to carry as you can’t screw the caps back on. For most people, regular eye drops work fine with the generic drops working just as well as the fancier brand-name drops. If rewetting drops aren’t working, then you can also try rewetting gels. These are like rewetting eye drops, but have a thicker consistency and last longer. The downside to the gels is that they make the vision a little blurry when first applied. For people with very dry eyes or exposure issues at night (for example, the eyelids aren’t closing all the way when sleeping), rewetting ointments can be effective. These can be bought over the counter, have a consistency similar to Vaseline, and come in squeezable tubes. Ointments make the vision quite blurry so they are best used at bedtime. Popular brands of ointment include Genteel Gel and Refresh PM (the generic alternatives are just as effective).

Dr. Timothy Root is a practicing ophthalmologist and cataract surgeon in Daytona Beach, Florida. His books, video lectures, and training resources can be found at:


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