The best known eye drops for dry eyes are so-called tear substitutes. These are drops that consist mainly of water, but are also mixed with other substances so that they resemble the natural tear fluid. There are various active ingredients that can be used depending on the severity of dry eyes.
They contain either polyvinyl alcohols, polyvidones or cellulose derivatives if the dry eyes are not very severe. However, if they cause more severe symptoms, tear substitutes with carbomers, hyaluronic acid or dexpanthenol are used. The effectiveness and tolerance of the different active agents is different for every person.
Several may have to be tested to find the right product. All in all, it can be said that liquid eye drops should rather be used for minor symptoms and viscous drops are more likely to help in the case of more pronounced symptoms, as they remain in the eye longer. Euphrasia eye drops, for example, are generally well tolerated as they are purely herbal.
Many of the available artificial tear substitutes contain preservatives to make them last longer. In general, however, drops without preservatives should rather be used as preservatives often lead to side effects or inflammations. The use of artificial tear substitutes against dry eyes is unlimited in time. If a serious disease has been excluded as the cause, the eye drops can be used several times a day over a long period of time without hesitation. In this case, eye drops without preservatives are preferable, as preservatives can bring the composition of the tear fluid out of balance.
When should one go to the doctor?
If the feeling of dry eyes persists for several days and is not attributable to any cause, a doctor should be consulted. Also, if the affected eye begins to hurt, swell or secrete purulent secretions, a visit to an ophthalmologist is advisable. In such cases, an infection of the eye may have occurred, which requires urgent medical treatment.
Almost all eye drops for dry eyes are available without prescription from pharmacies. This applies both to herbal eye drops and to preparations such as tear substitutes with other active ingredients. Eye drops that are effective against dry eyes are generally not subject to prescription as they imitate the natural tear fluid of the eye.
Only if an inflammation or bacterial infection has spread and antibiotic treatment is required, prescription eye drops containing antibiotics must be used. There are a lot of medicines and homeopathic remedies that can be obtained over the counter at the pharmacy or on the Internet that can help against dry eyes. In the following, the corresponding active ingredients are listed with their trade names, but a visit to the doctor should not be avoided:
- Hypromellose: e.g.
Artelac eye drops, Isopto- Naturale, Sic Ophtal N
- Povidone: e.g. lacophthal, protagent, vidisept
- White vaseline: e.g. Coliquifilm
- Carbomer: e.g. Liposic, Vidisic
Eye drops for dry eyes, especially tear substitutes, are in most cases not covered by health insurance.
The costs are usually between 4 and 20 euros per pack, depending on the pack size. In some cases, however, if there are serious underlying diseases, the drops are considered to be prescription-only. This is the case if the lacrimal gland is damaged or completely absent, in the case of so-called facial nerve palsy, i.e. unilateral or bilateral facial paralysis in which the eyelids can no longer be closed, rheumatism and other diseases affecting the eye. These include Sjögren’s syndrome, which is an autoimmune disease in which the lacrimal glands are attacked, epidermolysis bullosa, a skin disease, ocular pemphigoid, in which the mucous membranes are affected, and lagophthalmus, in which the eyelid cannot be closed completely.