Preparations contain carboxymethyl cellulose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose (HPMC, hypromellose), and hydroxypropyl cellulose. They contain water, salts and polymers, but lack the proteins found in natural tears.

Patients who use artificial tears more frequently than once every three hours should choose a brand without preservatives or one with special non-irritating preservatives.


Application of artificial tears every few hours can provide temporary relief from the symptoms of dry eyes. Hydroxypropyl cellulose stabilizes and thickens the precorneal tear film, and prolongs the tear film breakup time.


Artificial tears usually are the first line of treatment for dry eyes. While mild cases require application of lubricant drops four times a day, severe cases require more aggressive treatment, such as ten to twelve times a day. Thicker artificial tears can be used in severe cases, although these may temporarily blur vision.

An artificial tear insert such as Lacrisert which contains hydroxypropyl cellulose can also be used every morning.


Drops for red eyes can make the eyes even more dry. If wearing contact lenses, rewetting or lubricating drops specifically for contact lenses should be used. Other types of drops may contain ingredients that damage the lens.

Adverse effects

Possible adverse effects of carboxymethyl cellulose and other similar lubricants include eye pain, irritation, continued redness, or vision changes.[1] Use should be discontinued if any of them occur. Those of hydroxypropyl cellulose include hyperaemia, photophobia, stickiness of eyelashes, discomfort, and irritation.

Artificial tears have no reported interactions. A documented contraindication of artificial tears is hypersensitivity.

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