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Long hours in front of the computer, mobile phone, or other electronic devices cause serious effects on vision and an inevitable decreased blink rate, increased exposure of the eye with consequent drying out of the ocular surface. For this, it is necessary to maintain correct visual hygiene and make use of artificial tears.

What are artificial tears?

Artificial tears are eye drops that reinforce the natural tear of our eyes, preventing them from drying out, with all the problems that this can cause. We could say that they are to our eyes what the moisturizer is to our skin, that is to say that we can use them even if we have no discomfort.

Which ones to buy?

Preservative free artificial tears are preferable, since you can use them as often as you need them. Those containing sodium hyaluronate usually work very well. Currently there is a wide offer and they are a product of easy acquisition in any pharmacy.

When to use them?

It is recommended that we all have artificial tears at home and that we apply them freely when we use near vision with the mobile, the computer, the tablet or simply reading. We should use them even if we have no symptoms, because on these occasions we blink less, keeping the eyes open for longer time and drying, something that can cause discomfort and complications.

If the eye drops purchased are preservative free, as we recommend, we can apply as much as we want. For example, if we are in front of the computer, we can put tears every hour or hour and a half, and increase the frequency if we need it, even if we want to do it every 5 minutes.

On the other hand, if the eye drops contain preservatives - although there are less and less on the market - they should not be used more than 3 or 4 times a day.

Are they compatible with contact lenses?

Generally they are, provided that we use preservative free eye drops. If so, there is no contraindication to employing them. Of course, we must be especially careful when cleaning our contact lenses.

Debunking myths

Many patients have the false conviction that the eye will stop producing its natural tear when using eye drops, but nothing is further from reality: not by putting artificial tears our eyes get used to them. Just as the use of moisturizing cream does not modify the characteristics of our body, the same happens with artificial tears. Quite the contrary, since tears are the best prevention of dry eye problems.

Doctor Borja Salvador Culla, ophthalmologist at the Barraquer Ophthalmology Center.