Are there any long term side effects of using eye drops for dry eyes?
I use lubricant eye drops daily for dry eyes. This has been on-going since 3 months ago, when I had my LASIK operation. I was wondering if there are any long term adverse effects of using lubricant eye drops for dry eyes? Or can I continue to use eye drops indefinitely?
Typically, the artificial tears that you find in pharmacies such as Refresh/Refresh Plus or Tears Naturale contain very plain/neutral substances such as carboxymethylcellulose or polyvinyl alcohol, which serve functions such as to thicken the eyedrop and keep it around the eye a bit longer. They may also contain minerals/electrolytes to keep the osmolarity (concentration of salts) similar to tears, so that the artificial tears do not sting when instilled.
I would not expect any of these substances to have any side effects, whether in the short or long term. So yes, they can be used indefinitely.
Some other eyedrops such as Prefrin contain 'eye-whiteners' and it would be best to minimise using these to avoid 'rebound redness' on stopping their usage.
Sorry to hear that your post-Lasik dry eyes are taking a bit longer to lessen.
Typically the single vial lubricating eyedrops should be quite safe to use long term, even at fairly frequent intervals. However, the bottled forms of lubricating eyedrops tend to contain more preservatives and hence are not meant to be used too frequently, such as exceeding 4-5 times a day.
Should the frequent application of lubricating eyedrops prove to tiring or troublesome for you, consult an eye doctor again as there are other medicated eye drops, ointment and treatment options such as punctual plugs that can be extremely helpful, and may quicken your recovery from dry eyes.
Dr Daphne Han
Thanks for your question! Although there are no long-term side-effects to using lubricating eye drops indefinitely, it can certainly be a chore to carry around and apply the drops!
You can be reassured that most patients taper off their lubricants quite rapidly after performing their refractive laser surgery procedure.
Ensure that if you are using your lubricants frequently, that you are applying a preservative-free eye drop. As using any form of medication can be difficult if performed many times a day, do consider speaking to your attending Ophthalmologist about adjunctive eyedrops that may be useful to reduce your dependence on simple lubricants. This may be in the form of other eyedrops including advanced lubricants, secretagogues, or anti-inflammatory eyedrops like Cyclosporin. Adjunctive measures including punctal plugs also provide relief for many of my patients.
Congrats on your LASIK surgery!
Dry eye symptoms are quite common after LASIK surgery. Having done LASIK myself I find that these symptoms tend to get better with time.
Lubricants can broadly be divided into two types -- the ones that come in a bottle (that contain preservatives), and the ones that come in little disposable tubes (that do not contain preservatives).
Generally speaking I would not encourage the use of the bottled form of lubricants for more than 4 times a day; if your symptoms require more than 4 applications of lubricants a day I would recommend using the preservative-free disposable forms instead. If you stick to this rule of thumb the drops can be used long term without much side effects.
I hope your eyes are feeling less dry, and that you are enjoying your new-found spectacle independence!