What Are Artificial Tears?

Artificial tears can help treat dry eyes.
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  • Written By: Misty Amber Brighton
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2014
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Artificial tears are lubricant eye drops used to treat a condition known as dry eyes. It is caused by a decrease in natural tear production and is characterized by redness, itching, and irritation. The drops might contain saline, water, and a number of preservatives. This medication may be purchased over-the-counter in many instances. Patients with chronic dry eyes may need to have them prescribed by an ophthalmologist.

Dry eyes, or keratocunhuctivitis sicca, can affect people of all ages. The reason for this affliction is unknown. Although it is not often serious, individuals who are affected often have difficulty reading or looking at a computer screen for long periods. This is because doing so slows the rate of blinking, which helps to lubricate the eye. Many patients choose lubricant eye drops only when performing these activities, while others may need to use them several times a day.

In addition to being used by people with dry eyes, contact lens wearers also use artificial tears. This is normally done to lubricate the eye so the lens becomes more comfortable to wear. Many patients find their eyes tend to dry out after they have been wearing contact lenses for a few hours, so the drops may need to be applied every three to four hours in order to keep the retina moist.


This medication is sold in most pharmacies without a prescription. It usually comes in a box labeled artificial tears. The box normally contains a small bottle of liquid with a long nozzle on the end. This bottle usually looks similar to a regular bottle of eye drops.

People typically use artificial tears by placing two or three drops of the product in the corner of the eyelid. After this, the patient should shut his eyes for a few minutes to keep the solution from leaking out. Eyes can be lubricated more evenly by rolling them from side to side and blinking a few times.

After using artificial tears, a patient should close the bottle tightly and place it back inside the original box. It can then be stored in a medicine cabinet or on a shelf. This product should be kept out of the reach of children because lubricant eye drops can be harmful if swallowed.

Patients who use artificial tears on a long-term basis may notice changes in their vision. Eye pain and irritation are also common side effects. People who experience these symptoms should consult with their ophthalmologist as soon as possible.


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