When You Use Eye Drops Every Day, This Is What Happens

If you suffer from red, itchy eyes, you probably reach for over-the-counter eye drops regularly. While eye drops can provide temporary relief, you may actually be doing more harm than good by constantly using them.

First off, there is a difference between artificial tear eye drops and medicated or allergy eye drops. Artificial tears are commonly used for dryness and come with or without preservatives. Medicated eye drops contain ingredients that constrict irritated blood vessels, while allergy eye drops contain antihistamines (via Barnet, Dulaney, and Perkins Eye Center). These don't require prescriptions from your doctor, however, the preservatives and other ingredients in these drops are not recommended for long-term use.

So what can happen if you get into the habit of using eye drops daily? You might notice you are worsening the redness in your eyes by training your eyes to become dependent on the eye drops (via Pamel Vision and Laser Group). Becoming dependent on daily artificial tear drops also affects your natural tears, which moisturize and protect your eyes.

Conditions that can cause eye irritation

You may be masking an eye allergy that can be helped with over-the-counter medications, but you aren't actually identifying or solving the issue.

"It's clear that the over-the-counter treatments have helped ... However, for long-term care, you really need to prevent. You need prescription and an intervention with education to maximize the outcome and to hopefully prevent the development of ocular allergies to the point where it interferes with your daily lives," says allergist Dr. Leonard Bielory (via American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology).

Some possible conditions that can cause eye discomfort are bacterial infections, such as pink eye or blepharitis, as well as trauma to the eye (via Barnet, Dulaney, and Perkins Eye Center). An eyelash, dust, or any other foreign object could also be the cause of eye irritation.

So while it may be fine to temporarily use eye drops daily, it is important to seek medical advice from an eye doctor if your eye issues persist so you can be properly diagnosed and treated.