There are all sorts of eye drops available to consumers today, but how do you know if you need to use them? Many people who could benefit from artificial tears don’t know it, while others use them unnecessarily.

If you’ve ever wondered about whether eye drops are for you, when to use them, or how they work, then this article is for you.

What Are Artificial Tears?

This product is an eye drop used to lubricate dry or irritated eyes. They help to maintain moisture on the outer surface of your eyes, reduce redness, and relieve itchiness. You can find them at any over the counter pharmacy and in nearly every supermarket.

To simulate our body’s natural tears, these liquids utilize the following ingredients:

  • Astringent
  • Demulcent
  • Emollients
  • Hypertonicity agent
  • Vasoconstrictors
  • Eyewashes

What Are They Used For?

Artificial tears have a wide variety of uses. These will usually be stated on their packaging, but always make sure to read their labels to find the right choice for your eyes.

These products are designed to provide relief from Dry Eye Syndrome (DES). Under normal circumstances, your tear ducts naturally keep your eyes hydrated while you are awake. DES causes them to produce less than your eyes need, causing dryness and irritation to occur from the friction your eyelids cause.

A Brief History

People have sought relief from their dry eyes for as long as history can remember. In an article published in Ophthalmology Review by a clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, it was revealed that prescriptions for this problem date all the way back to Babylonian times!

Thankfully, the science behind relieving dry eye symptoms has come a long way since then. Today’s remedies are designed to mimic our body’s natural tear production as well as alleviate the underlying causes of Dry Eye Syndrome.

While it isn’t known when exactly these bottled products became available to the public, they have gained a lot of popularity since the 1970’s and 80’s.

Now, there are a wide variety of products that you can choose from which offer different benefits and uses ranging from red eye relief to cooling menthol for those who work in smoke filled environments such as factories.

The Benefits

The ingredients that make up artificial tears offer a variety of benefits to your dry eyes. Each is unique in its function, but they all come together to recreate the effect of your body’s natural tears.


This ingredient lays the groundwork for the rest by cleaning off the surface of your eye. It does this by precipitating protein, which is the process of separating proteins from any contaminants they may be mixed with. By cleaning your eye, the rest of the ingredients can get to work and help you find relief.


These are soothing substances that are used to relieve pain in inflamed or irritated mucous membranes. They help to form a protective layer these membranes, which helps them to hold in moisture as well as prevent them from drying out any further. Demulcents also provide much-needed relief by adding moisture to your eye’s membranes.


These are oily or fat based agents that are used to soften and protect tissues, helping to prevent cracking and drying. They are non-moisturizing, but still, help to seal in existing moisture. Replicating the lipid layer found in the film your natural tears create, they work to increase the stability of the moisture on your eye.

Hypertonicity Agents

These agents act as a seal, locking Demulcents and Emollients in along with their moisture and oils. While your tears would usually adhere to the surface of your eye, these ingredients would fall away or evaporate if it were not for Hypertonicity Agents. This is also what keeps you from having to constantly reapply eye drops.


While the Hypertonicity Agents are creating their seal, Vasoconstrictors constrict the blood vessels in your eye. This helps to reduce redness, but its primary purpose to alleviate swelling that causes extra friction against your eyelid. Solutions that specify “redness reduction” rely heavily on this ingredient.


This ingredient’s purpose is to ensure a healthy pH level for your eye. This is done by neutralizing acidic and base substances, protecting your eye from serious injuries. The normal range is 7.0 to 7.3.

Other Benefits

Some eye drops now feature a cooling sensation when applied. Some find this to add to their relief, while others feel as though it burns.

Those who wear contacts may also experience irritation similar to Dry Eye Syndrome. They can find the same relief when their contacts become bothersome.

Who is This Product Made For?

This product can be for anyone who would like the relief it delivers when their eyes begin to irritate them. Those who suffer from the effects of Dry Eye Syndrome are the target audience, but there can be several situations in which your eyes need to be moisturized.

Even if your eyes do not usually have a problem creating enough tears, daily activities can cause them to dry out. Many choose to use them to when driving for extended periods of time, like when headed on vacation or for work.

Others may find they need relief when spending long hours in front of a computer screen. Whether this be for school projects or those who work in an office setting, be sure to take a break every once in a while. The strain these monitors put on your eyes can have a similar effect to Dry Eye Syndrome. Swimmers may also choose to use artificial tears if the chlorine level of the pool causes irritation or burning, as it can help to restore a healthy pH and contract blood vessels.

If you wear contacts, then you may need to use them to help alleviate the scratching. Scratching that may be caused by a dry eye rubbing against the contact. Artificial tears can also help to reduce the eye irritation caused by allergies. Some are even created specifically for this use.

Finding the right artificial tears for your eyes depends on what you need relief from the most.

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