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 (423) 710 3965 and start your journey to healthier, more comfortable eyes.

Patients with dry eye visit our clinic from all over Tennessee, and we are proud to be a leading provider of dry eye services for patients from Hixson, Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Middle Valley.


Vision therapy is well worth the response, time and effort. Our Son had a hard time focusing and writing neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time if previously took. His abilities to focus improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent, we wanted learning to be fun for our Son, and vision therapy made this possible.

Amanda T.

Vision Therapy is well worth the expense, time and effort. Our son had a hard time focusing handwriting neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time it previously took his abilities to focus and improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent you wanted learning to be fun for our son and vision therapy made this possible.

Alexa H.

Vision Therapy has given or son the tools he needs to be able to scan and read the written word more effectively and efficiently.

He love working with John and these working sessions give him the motivation to gladly work on his homework assignments.

It amazed us to see the difference in the tracking of his eyes and along a line of it's from the beginning to the end of the treatment.

Dr. McBryar , Kristen and John  are all marvelous and we would recommend them to anyone I only wish that we would have found them sooner!

Charlotte M.

Prior to coming to the institute for vision development my son complained of daily headaches. Therapy has eliminated his headaches completely. I love knowing my son is able to learn pain-free for the rest of his life because of the work that has been done over just a few weeks in this office. He he absolutely loved coming that didn't even feel like going to a doctor or therapy. We are grateful for the relief he was able to find by coming here.

Thank you!

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Seems much less frustrated with life

Reads non-stop and fast

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When we first came to the practice, my son did not have huge issues, but lots of small ones- trouble with reading, sports (hitting the baseball consistently), coordination, etc- that were not easily detectable,but when put together presented issues. The staff here were all very professional and loving towards him. While I was concerned in the reading, my son was concerned with the athletic side. Seeing improvement night off the bat gave him confidence that i have nor seen in him and made him want to not only Come to therapy, but also made him want to work hard. He has surpassed his grade level and above in reading and hit his first home run this year! Thank you!!!

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