How Do I Choose the Best Eye Drops for Red Eye?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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The best eye drops for red eye depend on what's causing the redness. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may need prescription eye drops. If your red eyes are due to simple irritation or strain, over-the-counter drops may be effective. Eye drops can contain decongestants, which shrink the blood vessels in the eye, or antihistamines. Other eye drops contain antibiotics and are meant to clear up redness caused by an infection.

One of the more common types of eye drops for red eye is a decongestant. When you apply the drops to your eyes, the decongestant makes the blood vessels on the surface of the eye shrink so your eyes look whiter. Decongestant eye drops have several side effects, however, such as making the eyes dry. Using these drops too much will actually make eye problems worse.

Sometimes, decongestant eye drops also contain antihistamines, although there are also antihistamine eye drops that do not contain a decongestant. Eye drops that contain antihistamines may be your best option if your red eye is caused by an allergic reaction to something, such as pollen or dust. The drops are available both over the counter and by prescription only, depending on the severity of your allergies.


You'll likely need to apply eye drops for allergies frequently throughout the day, which can be inconvenient for some. If you wear contact lenses, you may experience irritation and inflammation from the drops. Some people experience side effects such as stinging in the eyes and headaches.

If your red eyes are a result of conjunctivitis caused by a bacterial infection, you may need to use antibiotic eye drops, which are available by prescription. You need to use the drops exactly as prescribed to clear up the infection and prevent it from returning. Conjunctivitis can also be caused by a virus or an allergic reaction, and antibiotic drops will not help allergic or viral forms of the disease.

Some eye drops for red eye contain preservatives that help the medication stay shelf stable. You may experience an allergic reaction to the preservatives, though, which can make your red eyes worse. If you do have trouble with eye drops that contain preservatives, you can try ones without these ingredients. Typically, preservative-free drops are packaged in single-use vials and will break down quickly once opened. They are also more expensive than regular eye drops.


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Post 4

I am from Russia and R have continuously red eyes. R visited lots of doctors and the last doctor took couple of my lashes and watched them in the microscope and she said that i have parasites in my eyes. She gave me seven eye drops and I used them all, but as soon as they finished my eyes became red again. My eyes are always red if I don't use drops. I fear my eyes are addicted to drops.

Post 3

There is a new eye drop on the market. I've seen it at most pharmacies. I don't remember the brand right now but it has menthol in it.

There are several versions of this, for dry-eye, for contact wearers and for red eyes. It works very well. It stings a bit at first but relieves my red eyes right away.

Post 2

@ysmina-- Those eye drops shouldn't be used for the long term. If you use it regularly for years, your eyes will become reliant on them and if you were to stop using it, you will have constant red eye.

You need to figure out what's causing your red eye and treat the underlying condition. If it's allergic, it might be better to use an anti-allergy eye drop prescribed by your doctor.

If your eyes are getting red because you're tired and irritated, you might do well on a regular saline eye drop or artificial tears in the long term.

Post 1

I get red eyes all the time. I use an over-the-counter eye drop for it. It works well but I'm using it almost every day. If I don't use it, my eyes look scary.

Is there a more natural eye drop that works for red eye that I can use for the long-term?

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