Can Eye Drops Be Overused?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, May 18, 2021
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Do you suffer from red, itchy eyes? Eye drops may provide relief, but don’t overuse them. 

Overusing eye drops can cause more harm than good.

If you find yourself constantly reaching for eye drops, it’s time to start looking into the bigger issue and finding a full solution.

What’s causing your symptoms? While eye drops may provide satisfying and quick relief for itchy or irritated eyes, they don’t address what might be causing the irritation to begin with.

Two signs that you’re overusing eye drops: you view eye drops as a cure rather than a temporary treatment, and/or you often exceed the daily recommended dose.

If you think you may be overusing your eye drops, contact an eye doctor near you to help diagnose the underlying cause of your symptoms.

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Risks of overusing eye drops

When overusing eye drops, patients can run the risk of:

  • Masking a more serious problem. Alleviating the symptoms while ignoring their root cause can allow a condition to worsen.
  • Rebounding. The original eye symptoms may return stronger than before as the effects of the eye drops wear off or when the drops are no longer being used.
  • Washing away your natural tears. Artificial tears help with insufficient tear production and feel great as they lubricate the eyes. But overuse can literally wash away natural tears and the natural moisturizers that protect the eyes.

Conditions that eye drops could be masking

Red, itchy eyes are a symptom of several conditions, including:

  • Allergies – Allergies to the environment or pets can cause dry, itchy eyes.
  • Blepharitis – Red and inflamed eyelids, caused by dry eye, a bacterial or fungal infection, parasites, or gland dysfunction, all of which require treatment beyond over-the-counter eye drops.
  • Dry eye syndrome – Redness, itchiness and irritation are common symptoms of dry eye syndrome. In severe cases, DES can damage the cornea.
  • Eye strain – Focusing on work all day  can cause eyes to become tired, strained and irritated.
  • Eye trauma – Rubbing or scratching the eye can cause blood vessels to break, making the eye red and itchy. More serious traumas will require prescription eye drops or surgery.
  • Foreign objects – An eyelash, dust, or something worse could be in the eye. If an individual has long-term issues with dry or itchy dry eyes, they need to make sure a foreign body isn’t the culprit.
  • Pink eye – A viral or bacterial eye infection, also called conjunctivitis, can cause swelling, itchiness and burning.

Regardless of why a patient often uses eye drops, the only way to get to the root cause of the symptoms is a thorough eye exam.

Rather than cover up the symptoms with eye drops, it’s always better to receive a complete diagnosis and treatment.

If you’re suffering from irritated, dry eyes that haven’t resolved on their own, contact an eye doctor near you who can help you find the long-lasting relief you’ve been looking for.