What Makes the Best Eye Drops for Dry Eyes?
Dry eyes are more than a nuisance — for some they can be a sign or symptom of a larger health condition. Affecting up to thirty percent of the population dry eyes are responsible for the majority of visits to see an opthamologist.
In addition to the discomfort, having consistently dry eyes can lead to a loss in visual acuity (sharpness) and a lower quality of life since everyday activities such as reading or driving may be negatively impacted. Since eyes are sensitive organs that need moisture to function properly, when eyes are left dry, the cornea can be damaged (1).
While there are many factors that may lead to dry eyes, the solution many people reach for is eye drops — but which ingredients for eye drops for dry eyes are best? The most hydrating? Are some ingredients better than others? Why? Read on and find out.
Causes of Dry Eyes
The eye becomes dry when there are insufficient tears to moisten them and keep them hydrated. Your eyes may itch, burn, or start to blur. You may even become more sensitive to light .
In addition to problems with the eyes and eyelids themselves, including blocked tear ducts, dry eyes can be caused by factors both in and outside of the body. Fluctuating hormones can contribute to dry eyes and both pregnancy and hormone replacement therapy have been linked to eye dryness.
Certain medications may cause dry eyes as a side effect, including antihistamines, which is particularly problematic because another cause of dry eyes is seasonal allergies. Wearing contact lenses, eye strain from staring at a computer screen or phone, and even environmental factors like wind have all been linked to incidents of dry eye.
Autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis also can cause or contribute to dry eyes.
Age is one of the biggest factors in experiencing dry eyes. In fact, for every 5 years of life after 50 there is significant growth in the number of patients reporting symptoms of dry eyes. Aging provides more time and more opportunities for tear duct malfunction and cataract development. Perhaps most importantly, the years we spend living (and aging) give ample time for oxidative stress to build up (2).
Oxidative Stress and Dry Eyes
While it has been known for decades that oxidative stress is a factor in aging, scientists are unraveling what exactly that means for specific organs like the eyes. They have found that oxidative stress is correlated with decreased tear production, and therefore likely to be a cause or symptom in age-associated eye dryness. (2) The same scientists found that there was a connection between dry eyes and inflammation concluding “inflammation on the ocular surface participates in age-related dry eye”.
Best Eye Drop Ingredients for Dry Eyes
- N-acetyl-carnosine (NAC)
If you are concerned about dry eyes as you age consider an eye drop containing NAC.
N-acetyl-carnosine (NAC) is a well known antioxidant. Antioxidants are important in the body because they directly counter oxidative stress. The authors of one study noted “reactive oxygen species generated from normal metabolism must be counteracted by anti-oxidant defenses to prevent damage to lipids, DNA and mitochondria”(2). Another scientific paper highlighted the significance of N-acetyl-carnosine as an antioxidant when they said NAC “acts directly as a scavenger of free radicals, especially oxygen radicals”(3).
There are multiple published studies linking NAC to a lower level of oxidative stress, specifically in the eye. Some have also noted an improvement in age related eye symptoms, including cataracts, when using eye drops that contain NAC. One study even concluded N-acetyl-carnosine lubricant eye drops are a “powerful therapeutic platform” and noted that they “may provide a basis for personalized cataract disease and aging prevention and treatment approaches” (4).
NAC eye drops may help aging eyes. A study examining the effectiveness of NAC eye drops concluded, “NAC eye drops help the aging eye to recover by improving its clarity, glare sensitivity, color perception and overall vision.”(5)
Glycerin is one of the most common ingredients for eye drops for dry eyes. It lubricates the eye and acts as artificial tears to keep dry eyes hydrated. Glycerin has a similar viscosity (consistency) to natural tears so it stays on the surface of the eye. Often used in formulations with other ingredients, glycerin is thick enough to stay in the eye when blinking and yet thin enough to easily see through, unlike some gel formulations. It is hydrating and often relieves the symptoms of dry eyes like itching and burning upon application. (6)
If you are trying to decide which ingredients for eye drops for dry eyes are best for you, consider that fewer ingredients generally means a higher quality product. Some brands can have ten ingredients or more and some can cause eye irritation. While extra ingredients may be necessary for antibacterial purposes and for balancing the PH of the formula (important to reduce the feeling of eyes burning during application), many of them are considered inactive.
Also keep in mind that mineral oil as an eye drop ingredient for dry eyes may be emulsified and therefore white in color, so it may blur the vision for a few minutes after application—you may want to avoid it.
A soothing eye drop, containing both NAC and glycerin is Vision Clarity Eye Drops. Formulated without extra ingredients, its PH balanced formula reduces eye sting and is free of toxic preservatives and mineral oil.
In addition to eye drops, you may want to supplement your diet with an antioxidant formula, especially if it is specifically targeted to eye health. Life Vitality Ultra Eye and Vision Support with NAC contains carotenoids (known for their role in vision) plus NAC as an antioxidant. It was designed with healthy eye function in mind.
Whichever formulation you choose you can be assured of quality with a GMP (good manufacturing practices) certification, so check the label when you buy!
Thank you for taking the time to read What Makes the Best Eye Drops for Dry Eyes?
Please note: All information presented to you in this website is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. We cannot, and will not give you medical advice. We strongly recommend you consult your physician for any and all specific health issues. If you have any questions or contributions, please contact us via email or phone-call. We are constantly looking for new information to promote wellness – and hearing from you would make our day.
1) Investigating the potential benefits of a new artificial tear formulation combining two polymers
2) Effects of Aging in Dry Eye
3) A Review on Various Uses of N-Acetyl Cysteine
4) Dissolving and Prevention of Cataract with N-Acetylcarnosine Lubricant Eye Drops
5) N-Acetylcarnosine sustained drug delivery eye drops to control the signs of ageless vision: Glare sensitivity, cataract amelioration and quality of vision currently available treatment for the challenging 50,000-patient population
6) Evaluation of an enhanced viscosity artificial tear for moderate to severe dry eye disease: A multicenter, double-masked, randomized 30-day study