Can eye drops make my eyes feel worse?

Published on
February 22, 2023

Dry eye disease is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. The first line of treatment for dry eye disease is usually artificial tears or eye drops. However, it's not uncommon for some people to report that their eyes feel worse after using eye drops. In this blog post, we'll explain why this can sometimes happen and share some helpful tips so that you can have a successful dry eye treatment.

The Hidden Risks of Eyedrops for Dry Eye: What You Need to Know

Many people feel burning or irritation right after putting eyedrops in, and this is often because of the preservatives that are in those eye drops. Most of the newer eyedrops in the market have what is called a soft preservative, which is believed to not cause any damage to the ocular surface. However, many generics and older brands of eyedrops, including prescription medications, often have a preservative called benzalkonium chloride (BaK), which can cause damage to the ocular surface and even result in an allergy in some cases.

Another reason why eye drops can worsen dry eyes is the use of "get the red out" drops, which contain ingredients that can irritate the eyes and make dry eye worse. These types of drops usually have an ingredient called Tetrahydrozoline in them, which helps constrict the blood vessels on the surface of the eye, making them look more white. However, this ingredient tends to wear off and become less effective over time, leading to a rebound effect where the redness gets worse and the cycle continues.

It's also important to note that not all eyedrops are created equal, and it's crucial to choose the right type of eye drop for your specific needs. In some cases, using the wrong type of eye drop can make dry eye symptoms worse. For instance, if you have meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), a common cause of dry eye, using regular artificial tears might not be enough to treat the condition. Instead, you might need a specific type of drop for short term relief and treatment such as heating and expression of the meibomian glands to properly treat MGD.

Additionally, the frequency of use and the amount of eye drops used can also affect the severity of dry eye symptoms. Our tear film is made up of a delicate balance of mucine, aqua, and lipid (oil) layers, overuse of eye drops changes our natural tear film which protects our eyes and vision. 

Overusing eye drops can lead to a rebound effect, where your eyes become even more dry, inflamed,  and sensitive, leading to a vicious cycle. It's important to follow our eye doctor's recommendations and to not overuse eye drops.

Eye Drops 101: How to Minimize Discomfort and Maximize Benefits

To prevent your eyes from feeling worse after using eye drops, there are a few tips you can follow:

  • Avoid using "get the red out" drops. Speak to our optometrist about healthier options to reduce red eye. 
  • Use preservative-free eyedrops if you can. If not, talk to our eye doctor about what type of dry eye you may have and what type of eye drops we would recommend for you.
  • If preservative-free eyedrops are not an option, consider using the nano dropper attachment, which reduces the size of the drops by 70% and helps reduce any irritation or potential ocular surface damage.
  • Use warm compresses and lid massages as recommended by our eye doctor 
  • Speak to our eye doctor about supplements such as omega 3. 

Don't Let Dry Eye Interfere with Your Life. Schedule an Evaluation Today!

Don't let dry eye disease and the use of eye drops make your condition worse. If you're experiencing discomfort or irritation after using eye drops, it's crucial to seek the help of our professional optometrist. We can help you understand why eye drops can worsen dry eyes and provide you with the best solution for your specific needs. Whether you're using "get the red out" drops, have a sensitivity or are overusing drops with preservatives, or are using a different type of eye drop, we're here to help. Book an appointment today by calling (562) 925-6591 and start your journey to healthier, more comfortable eyes.

Patients with dry eye visit our clinic from all over California, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye services for patients from Bellflower, Long Beach, Lakewood, and Los Angeles.


I haven't actually used the optometrist side, so my review is limited to the vision therapy offered.  This office was recommended by my occupational therapist for the treatment of my double vision following a stroke.

Claire A.

Love this location. I had a brain injury accident from day one one. All the team make you feel you still important and hope in the horizon after when the medical system fell you miserably. Dr. Ikeda very professional and very understanding about your issue. Two tombs up.

Jim K.

My husband and I were immediately impressed with Dr Ikeda. I was hit by a car while cycling which caused broken bones and three brain injuries. The brain injuries caused double vision. Dr. Ikeda examined my eyes and got me started on vision therapy with his occupational therapist who specializes in vision therapy.  She (Chris) is absolutely great.  I am impressed with the array of tools used to help recover my binocular vision.  I am doing things I never thought were possible (balance boards etc).  Chris pushes me and keeps me motivated. I really enjoy my sessions with her.  The office staff is always friendly and they have a wonderful appointment reminder tool that makes it easy to keep my calendar up to date. I am happy the rehab center at Little Co. of Mary recommended them!!

Teresa S.

The Vision Therapy is handled in a separate office through a different door from the shared waiting room. Chris, the vision therapist, has a wide and varied assortment of tools, equipment and resources to best evaluate and treat most vision issues. After just a few visits, my double vision became easier to control, using exercises developed during the therapy process. It was time well-spent.

Joe M.

I have been coming here since I can remember. I love it here. The staff is so amazing and nice. They explain everything they gonna do and never make you feel rushed. Dr. Ikeda has always been my doctor and I would never want another one. He is the doctor for my whole family and is always asking how everyone is doing. I am also so crazy about picking out my frames and have to try so many and each person who helps me take the time and lets me try them all on. I would never want to go anywhere else! I definitely would recommend this office to anyone looking for a great eye doctor.

Kayla W.

This is not for the eye exam but for the frames selection portion. I brought my prescription from Kaiser here with my VSP insurance. The reception staff was very polite and professional.  Manny helped me to pick out frames and explain my coverage.  Very helpful and patient not like the individual at the other place I rated here on Yelp.  I was running late and he still helped me and was not bothered at all.  I am so glad I came here ..........very pleased.

Very professional staff and pleasant.

Daniel G.
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