Polyvinyl alcohol for dry eyes

  • These drops act as artificial tears.
  • Use the drops as often as needed.
  • If your vision becomes blurred after using the drops, do not drive until you can see clearly again.
Type of medicine Eye lubricant
Used for Dry eyes caused by a lack of tears
Also called Liquifilm Tears®
Refresh Ophthalmic®
Sno Tears®
Available as Eye drops and single-dose unit eye drops

Polyvinyl alcohol moistens the surface of your eye. It acts as a substitute for tears to help ease the symptoms of dryness and soreness caused by your eyes not producing enough tears.

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine may only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start using polyvinyl alcohol eye drops it is important that your doctor or pharmacist knows:

  • If you wear soft contact lenses.
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to polyvinyl alcohol or to any other eye drops.
  • Wash your hands well before you use the drops.
  • Remove the cap (or the tip of the unit if you are using a single-use dose unit).
  • Tilt your head back a little and pull the lower lid of your eye out to form a pocket.
  • Hold the bottle (or single-use dose unit) upside down near to your eye. Try not to touch your eye as you do this.
  • Apply enough pressure to release one drop into your eye.
  • Close your eye for a minute or two, and press gently on the side of your nose where the corner of your eye meets your nose. This helps to stop the drop from draining away and keeps it in your eye.
  • Repeat the process in your other eye if you have been told to use the drops in both eyes.
  • Replace the cap (or if you are using the single-use dose unit, throw it away).
  • Before you start using these eye drops, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack.
  • Use one drop into the eye (or eyes) affected by dryness. You can use the drops as often as you need to, unless you have been told otherwise by your doctor.
  • Take care not to touch the tip of the dropper or opened unit with your eye, fingers, or any other surface. This is to prevent the drops from becoming contaminated.
  • If you are using any other eye drops, leave about ten minutes between applying each one. Polyvinyl alcohol should be the last ones used.
  • When first put in, eye drops may sometimes cause blurred vision. If this happens, it should quickly clear. Make sure you can see clearly before you drive, or use tools or machines.
  • If your symptoms do not improve within a few days, or if they become worse, see your doctor for further advice.
  • Do not wear soft contact lenses if you are using eye drops from a bottle unless your doctor has advised you otherwise. This is because there is a preservative in bottles of eye drops which can affect soft contact lenses. You may wear soft contact lenses while you are using the single-dose units as there is no preservative in these.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the new medicine, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Possible polyvinyl alcohol eye drop side-effects What can I do if I experience this?
Eye irritation or redness This should pass after a minute or so. If it continues, speak with your doctor for advice

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to these eye drops, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Single-dose units should be used immediately the unit is opened. Do not store or re-use opened units for subsequent doses. This is because the units do not contain any preservative.
  • Eye drops in bottles only keep for four weeks once the bottle has been opened, so do not use the drops if the bottle has been open for longer than this. This will help to prevent the risk of eye infections.
  • Make sure that the person prescribing this medicine knows about any other medicines that you are using. This includes medicines you buy and herbal and homeopathic medicines.
  • If you buy any medicines check with a pharmacist that they are safe to use with your other medicines.
  • Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has swallowed any of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are using.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 62nd Edition (Sep 2011) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Liquifilm Tears®; Manufacturer's PIL, Liquifilm Tears®, Allergan Ltd, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated July 2009.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Adrian Bonsall
Document ID:
3377 (v25)
Last Checked:
Next Review:
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