Is it safe to use "Redness Relief" eye drops regularly? - NO
There are several eye “Redness Relief” products on the over-the-counter market, such as those made by Visine, Clear Eyes, and Bausch & Lomb - as well as generic versions sold by pharmacy chains.
The active ingredient in redness relief drops is either Tetrahydrozoline or Naphazoline. The active ingredient in redness relief drops, work though a process called vasoconstriction, an artificial clamping down of the superficial blood vessels on the eye surface. These blood vessels normally dilate in response to irritation. This increase in blood flow is trying to help repair whatever irritation is affecting the surface of the eye. Stopping this process by using a vasoconstrictor counteracts the body’s efforts to repair the problem. Repetitively using redness relief drops causes they eye to essentially become "addicted" to the drops causing an even larger problem than when the process started. This stimulates you to use the drops again.
If you read the warnings on their labels:
Do not overuse as it may produce increased redness of the eye.
Stop using and ask a doctor if you experience eye pain, changes in vision, continued redness or irritation of the eye condition worsens or persists for more than 72 hours.
Does anyone read those warnings? Probably Not.
These drops are meant to be used for a VERY short duration - maybe one or two days is all.
They are not meant to be used indefinitely and they are certainly not meant to be used daily.
Take a good look at that first warning: MAY PRODUCE INCREASED REDNESS OF THE EYE.
If you are using redness relief drops repetitively you are likely making your eye redness WORSE, not better.
If you have been using redness relief drops daily you need to stop and replace them with an artificial tear or lubricating drop - something that DOES NOT say “gets the red out.”
After you make that switch your eyes are initially going to be red as your blood vessels take time to return to normal. The lubricating drop will actually help the repair the damage done by exposure to adverse conditions. This will decrease the inflammatory signals that make the vessels dilate.
Do not use redness relief drops with contact lenses. If you put the drop in with your contact in, the contact soak up the drug keeping it on your eye longer, thus likely increasing the vasoconstriction.
Your cornea has no blood vessels in it and it depends on the blood vessels in the conjunctiva over the whites of the eye to bring in nutrients and oxygen. The other source of oxygen for the cornea is what it gets from diffusion from the atmosphere and that is also cut down by the presence of the contact lens.
The redness relief drop combined with the contact lens are now BOTH reducing the levels of oxygen getting to the cornea. Decreased oxygen to the cornea is one of the biggest risks for contact lens-related infections, including corneal ulcers.
Contact us if you have questions regarding your red eye and what drops might work best for you!