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Latest treatment options and news about cataracts, dry eye syndrome and other eye care topics.

Over-the-Counter Red-Eye Drops: Are They Safe?

by Damion Wasylow 5 November 2018 12:50 PM

closeup of eye drops going into an eye
A nationally publicized murder case has many red-eye sufferers questioning whether the drops they use for relief of their red, irritated eyes could be deadly. York Country, South Carolina sheriff’s deputies say 52-year-old Lana Clayton recently confessed to killing her husband. And she did it by poisoning him with over-the-counter eye drops.

Clayton apparently learned that many popular over-the-counter eye drops – including Visine, Murine Plus, Altazine, Clarine and others – use the ingredient tetrahydrozoline to constrict blood vessels in your eyes. That’s how they “get the red out.” When ingested in significant quantities, however, the chemical can result in death.

When taken internally, tetrahydrozoline acts like a potent high blood pressure medication. Symptoms of tetrahydrozoline ingestion include drowsiness, low blood pressure, slowed heart rate, impaired breathing and possibly even coma. Children are at particular risk, as even relatively small quantities can trigger these symptoms.

Dr. Mark Morocco, an emergency room physician at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center says tetrahydrozoline eye drops are safe and effective, but like any medication, they should only be used as directed. “This drug is a little bit of a wildcard drug, when it's not used correctly. Put it in your eyes, it works great. [It] makes your red-eye go away, [it's] very safe. If you drink it or inject it, it gets into your bloodstream and behaves in ways that we don't quite understand.”

Red-eye is a common eye irritation symptom, potentially attributable to several root causes, including environmental conditions, infections, eye allergies, digital eye strain and contact lens issues, among others. And while over-the-counter eye drops can help reduce symptoms, people with dry eye syndrome can often benefit from more comprehensive treatment. 

Through our Dry Eye Center for Excellence, the physicians at North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care provide complete dry eye diagnosis and treatment. By helping patients identify the true cause of their dry eye symptoms, we are able to apply the most effective treatment regimen.

If you or someone you love is tired of constantly using eye drops without experiencing true ongoing relief of your dry eye symptoms, contact North Florida Cataract Specialists and Vision Care at 352-373-4300 today to schedule an appointment.



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