Can Eye Drops Be Overused?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, May 18, 2021

Overusing eye drops can cause more harm than good.

Do you find yourself constantly reaching for eye drops? While eye drops may provide satisfying and quick relief for itchy or irritated eyes, exceeding the daily recommended dosage can cause serious eye health problems..

How does over-usage of eye drops happen?

Most people over-use eye drops when they view their eye drops as a cure to their condition rather than a temporary treatment.

This may lead to inserting too many drops into the eyes or using the eye drops too frequently throughout the day. 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.

Risks of overusing eye drops

When overusing eye drops, you 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.

SEE RELATED: Are Eye Drops Confusing?

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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 you may be using eye drops, the only way to get to the root cause of your symptoms is by scheduling  an eye exam to receive a complete diagnosis and treatment.

LEARN MORE:  Guide to Eye Conditions

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.