Eye drops come in a number of different formulations. Some are available by prescription only and are used to treat chronic dry eyes, seasonal allergies or infections. There are also many over-the-counter (OTC) drops that may be used for transient eye irritation called by allergies, or dry eyes.
Prescription Eye Drops are numerous. Some of the more well—known help the eyes produce tears and may assist with chronic dry eye. Olopatadine is a prescription-only variant used to treat itching, weepiness, and redness caused by allergies. Numerous prescription drops or ointments contain antibiotics and are used to treat eye infections caused by pinkeye, or eye injuries like scratched corneas.
Unlike OTC eye drops, prescription medications do need to be ordered by a medical professional. Most of them do prove very effective in treating the conditions for which they are used. Any drops or ointment used to treat infections should only be used by the person for whom they are prescribed, and should be discarded when the infection has cleared.
OTC eye drops come in numerous preparations as well. There are a plethora of artificial tears for treating chronic dry eyes. These do not cause the eyes to produce more tears, but the drops themselves lubricate the eyes and may help with dry eyes. Some OTC drops are targeted at reducing redness in the eyes, and may be helpful if one has bloodshot eyes. Other types are targeted toward the allergy sufferer, and may provide some short-term relief from itchy eyes due to allergies.
Most of the commercial brands and generic OTC eye drops do contain a high number of preservatives. These actually may irritate the eyes if the drops are used over long periods of time. They should, therefore, be considered for short-term use only. In fact, drops that help reduce redness may cause the eyes to be very dry and will not treat eye infections like pink eye.
OTC eye drops will generally not work when an eye is infected. In fact, one should not use over-the-counter products if one suspects pink eye or injury to the eye. Instead, one should see a healthcare provider to rule out infection. Pink eye is particularly contagious, and if you have used OTC eye drops at the onset of infection, you should again discard them immediately. As with any drops, use is intended for one person alone, so one should always consider buying each family member his/her own medication.