Summary of best carbomer eye gel drops available in the UK
Advice for patients

5 Carbomer Eye Gel Drops You Need to know

Carbomer eye gel (also known as carbomer eye drops) is one of the most commonly used eye drops for the treatment of dry eyes. Carbomer is a gel-based eye lubricant, which has thicker consistency (viscosity) as compared to eye drops. In this post, I will discuss the availability of different brands of carbomer eye gels, their side effects, and the essential information about specific brands of carbomer eye gel products.

Where can I buy carbomer eye drops?

Carbomer eye gel is a pharmacy-only medication, which means it is available to buy only from pharmacies, including online chemists. Pharmacy-only medicines are kept away from the public and not available for self-selection. Carbomer eye drops are usually kept in the dispensary, which means customers need to ask about the product availability, should they wish to purchase it.

What is a dry eye? (video)

Dry eyes treatment recommendations

Lifestyle measures are among the first recommendations in the management of dry eyes, for example:

  • Reducing the time of contact lens wear or changing their type or lens solution
  • Increase blink time when working in front of computer screens or reading
  • Lowering computer screen below eye level
  • Reducing alcohol intake and avoiding cigarette smoke
  • Consideration of medication change that may cause a dry eye syndrome

Eye drops/eye gels are recommended when lifestyle measures failed to improve symptoms.

NICE guideline on the management of dry eyes does not recommend any specific brands of artificial tear products. However, it broadly suggests using eye drops during the daytime, and eye gels/ointments at night, before going to bed as these are more likely to cause temporary blurred vision (NICE, 2017).

Preservative-free formulations of eye drops/gels should be considered when patients are intolerant of preservative and suffer from moderate to severe dry eyes, which require more frequent administration eye drops/eye gels, for example, more than four times a day (ibid).

How does carbomer eye gel work?

Carbomer (chemical name: polyacrylic acid) forms a lubricating film rapidly over the eye (the conjunctiva and cornea). Lubrication time is prolonged due to the nature of carbomer. The retention time of carbomer in the eye is longer as compared to standard eye drops (eMC, 2017).

Carbomer eye gel products used in the management of dry eyes contain 2.0mg/g carbomer (0.2%).

How to use carbomer eye gel?

Carbomer eye gel is usually used 3-4 times a day. When prescribed, please follow the directions of your doctor.

How to instil carbomer eye gel?

Check product information leaflet before use. Also, check the expiry date before using carbomer eye gel. Then:

  • Wash your hands
  • Sit down or lie down and tilt your head backward
  • With one hand hold the gel vertically (you may want to control of the gel by making a fist)
  • Use second hand to pull your lower eyelid downwards.
  • Look upwards.
  • Insert one drop of the gel inside the lower eyelid by squeezing the tube. Care should be taken to avoid contact between the eye and the nozzle of the tube.
  • Blink a few times to spread the eye gel around the eye.
  • If present, excess of the eye gel can be wiped away from the eyelid.

Carbomer eye gel: common side effects

The most common side effect associated with the use of carbomer eye gel is blurred vision. Patients who drive or use operating machines should be aware of this possible side effect and wait until the vision clears before performing any of the tasks mentioned.

Other common side effects may include:

  • Eye irritation
  • Eye discomfort
  • Presence of crust on the eyelid

Carbomer eye gel: brands availability

Carbomer eye drops/gels are available in pharmacies under different brand names. Some common brands of carbomer eye gel include:

1. Viscotears Liquid Gel Eye drops

Viscotears Liquid Eye Gel are one of the most popular drops for dry eye management

Probably one of the most popular brands of carbomer eye gel from the pharmacy. Vicotears contain 0.2% of carbomer and come in a tube containing 10g of liquid gel.

  • Viscotears Liquid Gel is a pharmacy-only medication, usually kept in the dispensary. 
  • Viscotears can be used 3-4 times a day.
  • Patients who use contact lenses should remove them before the use and wait at least 15 minutes before placing them back.
  • Viscotears eye gel drops are sterile until open.
  • Patients who use other eye drops should wait at least 5 minutes between application. Viscotears should be applied as the last product.
  • Viscotears come in a small tube containing 10g of the gel.
  • Viscotears contain preservative: cetrimide.
  • Once open, Visotears Liquid Gel eye drops should be used within 28 days.  
  • When measured in healthy volunteers, retention time after the administration of the gel was 16 minutes as compared to 2 minutes for standard eye drops. The film, which is created after the administration, was maintained for up to 6 hours during this study (eMC, 2017).

2. Xailin 0.2% eye gel

Xailin Gel - the only carbomer eye gel in multi-dose tube which is preservative free

  • Xailin Gel is a preservative-free carbomer 0.2% eye gel.
  • Xailin Gel is the only eye gel in the UK which comes in the form of a multi-dose tube (10g) and is preservative-free.
  • Xailin eye gel can be used by people who wear contact lenses; however, lenses need to be removed before application of the gel.
  • The usual recommended dose is one drop applied 2-4 times a day as needed.
  • Once opened use within 28 days

3. Clinitas Carbomer 0.2% eye gel

Clinitas - carbomer eye gel drops

  • Comes as a 10g tube containing 0.2% of carbomer
  • Contact lens users: reinsert contact lenses 30 minutes after the administration of Clinitas Gel.
  • Clinitas Carbomer 0.2% eye gel contains preservative: cetrimide.
  • Once opened use within 28 days

5. GelTears 0.2% gel

  • The product comes in a 10g tube containing 0.2% of carbomer
  • GelTears, 0.2% gel, contains a preservative: benzalkonium chloride.
  • Patients should wait around 15 minutes between the application of other eye drops/eye ointments. GelTears should be applied last.
  • As with other carbomer eye drops, the recommended frequency of use is 3-4 times a day. Additionally, it is recommended to use GelTears around 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Contact lenses should be removed before application and re-inserted after 15 minutes.
  • Once opened, use within 28 days.

Single-dose unit of carbomer eye gel

Viscotears Liquid Gel Eye drops preservative-free

Viscotears Single Dose Unit preservative-free: old and new packaging

In addition to a multi-dose 10g tube discussed, Viscotears Liquid Gel is available as Viscotears Single Dose Unit. Single unit dose gel drops come in different pack sizes, with a box containing 30 individual dose units being most popular. Each single-dose container contains 0.6ml of carbomer 0.2% gel.

Although single-dose unit Viscotears are preservative-free, it is recommended to remove contact lenses during the application of the gel and re-inserted after 15 minutes.

A single dose unit of Viscotears should be used immediately after opening and discarded after the use.

Dry eyes: alternative treatment options

Patients who experience dry eyes have plenty of products to choose from. Other popular eye drops and eye gels for the management of dry eyes may contain the following active ingredients:

  • Hypromellose
  • Sodium hyaluronate
  • White soft paraffin, white mineral oil, lanolin (Xailin Night)
  • Propylene Glycol (Systane balance)
  • Carmellose sodium (Celluvisc)

Conclusion

Carbomer eye gels are considered safe and effective in the management of dry eyes. Although there is no high-quality evidence to support carbomer eye gel above other formulations in the management of dry eyes, available information suggests that gel formulation of carbomer offers prolonged lubrication of the eye as compared to eye drops, which may provide better treatment. Patients who failed to respond to the treatment and patients who experience vision loss should see their GP. Any changes to the vision require an urgent appointment with a doctor.

What carbomer eye gel product do you recommend? Please leave a comment.

FAQ

Can you buy Carbomer over the counter?

Carbomer cannot be bought over the counter. Carbomer eye gel is pharmacy-only medication, which means it can only be purchased from a pharmacy including online chemists.

Are Viscotears preservative free?

Viscotears Single Dose Unit 2.0mg/g Eye Gel are preservative free as opposed to Viscotears, which come in 10g multi-dose tube.

How often can you use eye lubricant?

Eye lubricant(s) are normally used 3-4 times a day, but this may vary between products. Read product information leaflet for dose instructions.

What is the best gel for dry eyes?

There are number of gel products available for treatment of dry eyes. Carbomer eye gel is most commonly used in the management of dry eyes. Some common brands include Viscotears, Clinitas eye gel, Xailin eye gel, GelTears, all of which contain carbomer 0.2%.

Are eye drops better than gel?

Eye drops require more frequent administration than eye gels, which have thicker consistency. Retention time and duration of lubricating film formed after the administration is longer for eye gels and therefore it may be suggested that eye gel is better than eye drops.

References:

eMC (2017). SmPC: Viscotears Liquid Gel Eye drops. Available at: https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/product/2310/smpc Accessed on 03/05/2020

NICE (2017). Dry eye syndrome: Scenario: Management of dry eye syndrome. Available at: https://cks.nice.org.uk/dry-eye-syndrome#!scenario Accessed on 05/05/2020

I am a community pharmacist working in UK. I blog about drugs, health and pharmacy.

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