Over the Counter Treatments

Over the counter treatments for Dry Eye are treatments that you can buy at any pharmacy, including Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS. Over the counter treatments are usually the first treatment regimen that any dry-eye doctor will have you try, since they are easy to obtain and fairly low cost. Plus, many insurance companies may not let you try more advanced treatments without first demonstrating that you have tried these basic over the counter treatments.

Below you can explore over the counter treatments for Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye and Evaporative Dry Eye / MGD. If you are unsure of the type of dry eye you have, ask your eye doctor. See our article on diagnosing dry eye to see what to expect at your eye doctor's office.

Over the Counter Treatments for Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye

If your doctor finds that you are not making tears, your doctor will likely recommend that you try over the counter artificial tears. These typically come in either a bottle or in individually sealed plastic vials. We highly recommend using the individual plastic vials, as they are preservative-free. Most other products that come in a single bottle contain a preservative called BAC (benzalkonium chloride). Used regularly, BAC can irritate the eye and cause an allergic-type reaction, as well as actually contribute further to your dry eye condition.

Our favorite product artificial tear is a product called Refresh Plus. The drop feels good on the eye and comes in individual vials, so no harmful preservatives.

They also make a version of Refresh that contains Omega 3 oils in the drops, Refresh Optive Mega-3. Many people who have dry eye are deficient in Omega 3 fatty oils, so these drops offer a unique delivery system to get these drops into your eye.

Another drop we like is Retaine MGD. This drop is geared towards patients who have the other type of dry eye, Meibomian Gland Dysfunction, because it aims to replenish tears as well as oil in your eyes. However, this combination approach makes it useful for people suffering from both types of dry eye.

There are other brands of artificial tears available as well, including Thera Tears and Systane. Ultimately you may need to try a few brands and determine which, if any works best for you. As you try these products, talk to your doctor if they are not working, as you may need to use some stronger prescription medication or try other treatments.

Over the Counter Treatments for Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)

When you have MGD (otherwise known as evaporative dry eye), the goal of treatment is to get the oil in your eyelids flowing as best as you can. We recommend that people with MGD buy a good quality heat mask. We recommend that you use your heat mask twice a day, as this will help open up your oil glands as well as keep them open and producing healthy oils.

Masks for MGD:

Our favorite mask is the TheraPearl Beaded Eye Mask. It is a cheap, easy to use mask that fits your face well and does a good job of delivering heat to your eyelids. Be sure to follow the directions on the package for heating instructions.

Another mask that many people recommend is the Bruder Eye Mask. Like the TheraPearl mask, it too is heated in the microwave.

There are also USB powered heat masks available, which may provide more consistent heat than the microwavable masks. However, we have found that they do not deliver heat as well as the microwavable masks, but you may still want to give them a try.

Always follow the directions on the packaging for your mask and consult your doctor if you have questions about the safety of your mask or using a mask on your eyes. Do not rub your eyes when using a mask and never use a mask while wearing contacts.

Artificial Tears for MGD:

Another product we recommend for those suffering with MGD is Retaine MGD artificial tears. Unlike most artificial tears, these aim to not only temporarily restore the liquid layer in your tear film, but to also help temporarily restore the oily layer in your tear film that may not be producing quality oil.

Lid Hygiene for MGD:

To keep the oil flowing in your eye lids, we recommend Ocusoft Lid Wipes. You can use these once or twice a day to keep your eyelids clear of debris or crusty oil. Wiping your eyelids with these wipes may help keep them clean and will help keep allergy irritants away from your eyes, which can cause swelling around your meibomian glands. These wipes are also good for cleaning up make-up from around your face and eyelids.

Another good product for lid hygiene is SteriLid. This foamy cleansing cream helps to keep your eyelids clean and also contains Tea Tree Oil that will kill any demodex mites that may be living on your eyelids and causing your oil quality to suffer.


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