A recent news story has brought this danger back into the lime light. For a long time, I have warned my patients about using over the counter drops for redness relief. I have sited the rebound redness that occurs when the drops are wearing off that makes people want or need to put another drop in, and another and so forth. I also have warned about the side effects if this is ingested. (I know when used properly, only a little gets down a patient’s throat when it travels through the tear drainage ducts.) Clubs in big cities have banned this as mixed with alcohol can be disastrous. The main ingredient in these redness relieving drops is Tetrahydrozoline, a vasoconstrictor, which is also found in nasal sprays, can lead to coma, difficulty or inability to breathe, blurred vision, seizures, nausea and/or vomiting.
This OTC eye drop poisoning isn’t new, a few years back, a mother of two had reportedly admitted to poisoning her two young children with Visine eye drops to the point of one boy requiring a lengthy hospitalization. The woman reportedly told cops that she emptied more than one bottle of the solution which contains tetrahydrozoline into her oldest son’s water and juice. The children eventually recovered, and she justly lost custody of her children.
In 2008, a Long Island woman was sentenced to three years’ probation after spiking a roommate’s drink with a product with the same ingredient. A Cleveland area man was given a five-year prison sentence in 2012 after nearly killing his father by pouring two bottles of Visine into his milk. In 2013, a Wyoming teenager was charged after pouring 20 bottles of the product in her stepmother’s tea and coffee over a four-month period. That same year, a California man was arrested after spiking his girlfriend’s drink with Visine following a fight. A Utah woman was charged with poisoning her husband over a period of several months in April 2017.
These are not rare isolated cases, but recently, my concerns have finally come to the national news in a case where a woman is being charged for poisoning and killing her husband with these drops. When 64-year-old South Carolina man Steven Clayton tumbled down the stairs of his enormous lakeside mansion modeled after Mount Vernon, authorities thought he had died from the fall but after Clayton’s funeral, an autopsy quickly revealed that his body contained incredibly high levels of tetrahydrozoline, a common ingredient found in eyedrops like Visine as well as nasal sprays. When Clayton’s wife Lana Sue was confronted with this evidence, she reportedly admitted she had poisoned him with eyedrops, putting it in his food. Her motive for doing so is still elusive.
There are many more cases like this, but, these drops won’t disappear any time soon. These are over the counter drops that have been around for a while and are safe when used properly.
If you are wanting a drop to whiten your eyes, try an artificial tear or Lumify® a newer drop by Bausch and Lomb that uses a safe whitening ingredient. There is no good reason for anyone to use these tetrahydrozoline based drops.