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Artificial Tears - Types, Usage, and Mechanism of Action

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Artificial tears, also called as lubricating eye drops, can help to moisturize and lubricate the surface of dry eyes. Continue reading to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Asha Juliet Barboza

Published At April 11, 2023
Reviewed AtApril 11, 2023


Tears are necessary for the comfort and health of the eyes. A tear forms a film that covers the eye while blinking. This helps to keep the eye clean and fresh from foreign bodies. A good vision depends on the stable and smooth tear film. A dry eye, a condition in which the eyes do not produce adequate tears. Other causes of dry eyes include computer eye strain, medical issues, and windy or smoky settings. This may lead to the tear film disrupting and causing uncomfortable symptoms like burning sensation, itching, blurred vision, and watering.

What Are Artificial Tears?

Artificial tears, also called as lubricating eye drops, can help to moisturize and lubricate the surface of dry eyes. These eye drops can treat dry eyes caused by aging, specific drugs, medical problems, eye surgery, or environmental factors like windy or smoky environments. In addition, some artificial tears reduce tear evaporation for lubrication, while others promote eye healing.

What Are the Types of Artificial Tears?

Various types of eye drops can be used to manage dry eyes. Artificial eye drops or artificial tears come under two categories and are available in liquid, ointment, or gel. It includes:

  • Artificial Tears With Preservatives - These eye drops contain preservatives (chemicals) that help prevent bacteria development. Preservatives may cause eye irritation. They are generally not advised for those with more severe eye dryness.

  • Artificial Tears Without Preservatives - People with moderate to severe dry eyes are advised to use preservative-free eye drops. Sometimes these eye drops are placed in single-use containers.

How Do Artificial Tears Work?

Artificial tears work by providing lubricating substances that are similar to natural tears. This thickens and stabilizes the tear film, extending the time before it breaks up and enabling tears to protect the eye's surface adequately. Most artificial tears can be used without a prescription. However, patients who use tear drops more than four to six times per day should pick a brand of non-irritating preservatives. In addition, the doctors may advise the usage of thicker eye drops at bedtime for severely dry eyes because these drops stay in the eye for so long and may cause blurred vision.

What Are the Side Effects of Artificial Tears?

Side effects of artificial tears include:

  • Burning sensations.

  • Blurry vision.

  • Eye pain.

  • Headache.

  • Itching.

  • Rashes appear on the skin.

  • Swollen eyes.

  • Redness.

How to Use Artificial Tears?

Artificial Tears should only be used in the eyes. Use exactly as instructed on the label or as suggested by the doctor. Never use more or less than advised or for a more extended period. Do not use artificial tears while wearing the contact lenses as they contain preservation to make contact lenses turn stains. After using the artificial tears, one should wait at least 15 minutes before inserting contact lenses into the eye. Wash both hands before and after applying the tears.

The lower eyelid should be pulled down, and the head should be tilted back slightly to make a tiny pocket. Avoid touching the fingertips, eyes, or any other surface with the dropper's tip. Put the recommended number of drops into the pouch, typically one or two drops. To ensure that the drops are in touch with the eye, gently close the eye for a short period. Utilize the medicine regularly.

Which Drugs Interact With Artificial Tears?

There are no known drug interactions between artificial tears and other drugs. However, if medicines are used on a doctor's prescription, the doctor should be made aware of any potential drug interactions . Without consulting a doctor or pharmacist, never start, stop, or alter the dosage of any medication. Inform the doctor or pharmacist about all other products used before using the eye drops. Maintain a list of all the prescriptions, and give it to the doctor and pharmacist. Check with the doctor if one has any concerns about their health.

Where Should Artificial Tears Be Stored?

Follow the package's labeling on how to store items. Keep the bottle at room temperature between 15 to 30 degree C (59 and 86 degrees F). Try to avoid freezing. Dispose of any unused medication after the expiration date. Keep the bottle away from children. Avoid flushing or pouring drugs down the drain or toilets. For further information on properly dumping the product, speak with the pharmacist or any regional waste management firm.

Are Artificial Tears Safe?

In general, it is acceptable to use lubricating eye drops as if they are not added any preservatives. Chemicals used in preservatives containing eye drops prevent bacteria from developing in the bottles once they have been opened. Many individuals discover that these preservatives irritate their eyes, especially if they have more severe dry eyes. Using eye drops without preservatives is advised by several ophthalmologists as they contain less additives. Preservative free eyedrops are usually advised in moderate to severe dry eye cases

What Preventions Have to Be Taken to Avoid Dry Eye Symptoms?

Annual eye exams are recommended for everyone. If someone experiences dry eye symptoms, they should be informed by their doctor priorly. Knowing the source of the dryness will assist the doctor in selecting better eye drops and other treatments.

  • Remember to blink frequently when reading or spending a lot of time looking at a computer screen.

  • Increase the air humidity at home and work.

  • Drink enough water (8 to 10 glasses) each day to prevent dehydration.

  • Essential fatty acid-rich nutritional supplements may reduce the symptoms of dry eyes.

  • Try to wear sunglasses to reduce exposure to sunlight and dry winds.

  • Maintain a healthy diet and exercise.


Artificial tears, also called as lubricating eye drops, can help to moisturize and lubricate the surface of dry eyes. These eye drops can treat dry eyes caused by aging, specific drugs, medical problems, eye surgery, or environmental factors like windy or smoky environments. Eye drops, gels, and ointments can generally be used to treat minor eye dryness causes. If someone has eye pain, changes in vision, persistent redness or irritation, or any eye problem that worsens or persists for more than 72 hours discontinue the usage and seek medical advice.

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Dr. Asha Juliet Barboza
Dr. Asha Juliet Barboza

Ophthalmology (Eye Care)


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