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Dry eye is a very common condition in which the eye is not producing enough quality tears, resulting in itchy, red and sometimes inflamed eyes due to lack of lubrication on the cornea.

One way to relieve this discomfort is to moisturize the eyes with artificial tears eye drops. However, there are several factors a patient should consider before choosing which lubricating eye drops to use on a daily basis. Redness-relieving drops are often not recommended.

Tears with preservatives in a single bottle

Most eye drops contain preservatives, or chemicals, in order to avoid bacteria from growing in the bottle after it has been opened. However, these chemicals can be harsh on the surface of the eye and can add to the problem.

“You will want to limit use of drops with preservatives to about four times per day if possible,” says Dr. Mehul Patel, UCF Health’s ophthalmologist. “That’s because the preservatives can irritate your eye and compound the problem.”

For patients with moderate to severe dry eyes, tear drops three times a day may not be enough. Fortunately, there are better options for all-day relief.

Preservative-free eye drops

Eye drops without preservatives have fewer additives and are recommended by most eye surgeons. These eye drops are significantly gentler on the eyes. Look for “preservative-free” on the box. These are the kind of drops that come in individual disposable vials. Use each vial once, then toss it out.

“You can use the preservative-free eye drops as often as you would like throughout the day,” said Dr. Patel. “If you have really irritated eyes, try keeping the drops in the fridge for added relief from the cool drop.”

Dry eye is a very common condition. If you have itchy, watery eyes, these eye drops can provide some relief. Make sure to alert your eye doctor about any concerns you have with your eyes.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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