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Is Visine Safe? Know the Risks

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When applied to the eye as directed, Visine is considered safe. If Visine is used chronically for a long time, it can lead to rebound eye redness. If Visine is taken any way other than directed, such as swallowed, it can be potentially fatal.

What Is Visine?

Visine is an over-the-counter (OTC) eye drop that is intended to relieve red eyes, dry eyes, and symptoms of allergies in the eyes. 

Visine contains the active ingredient tetrahydrozoline, which belongs to the imidazole family of medications and is a vasoconstrictor. This means that it constricts blood vessels to keep the eyes from appearing as red. 

Is Visine Safe?

For the temporary relief of redness in the eyes and when applied directly to the eyes as indicated, Visine is considered safe. 

Visine is a type of decongestant that works by constricting the blood vessels, which limits blood flow. This can reduce the appearance of redness in the eyes. Visine is toxic when ingested, however. 

To keep toxicity levels low, stick to the guidelines for using Visine. This means placing up to two drops into your eye no more than six times per day. Sticking to these limits keeps the toxic levels low. 

It is also important to only place Visine into your eyes directly. It is not safe to take these eye drops in any other way, such as putting them in a drink or swallowing them.

Visine is also not safe to take if you have narrow-angle glaucoma. This can lead to the development of angle-closure glaucoma, which can be a serious medical emergency.

Side Effects

Visine, with the active ingredient tetrahydrozoline, can have the following side effects:

  • Changes in vision or blurry vision
  • Eye pain or discomfort
  • Worsening eye redness
  • Watery eyes
  • Stinging or burning of the eyes
  • Dilated pupils

More serious side effects that require immediate professional attention include the following:

  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremors
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath

Is It Effective?

There are numerous reasons that your eyes can appear red. Typically, it is a temporary condition related to an eye irritant. If this is the case, Visine can be an effective method for temporarily relieving eye redness. 

It is important to only use Visine exactly as directed on the label and to not overuse the product either. It is not intended to be used as a solution for chronic red eyes or for underlying medical conditions that can cause red eyes. 

While red eyes can often be related to fatigue, eye irritation, or an eye condition like pink eye that can be easily treated, red eyes can also indicate a more serious health condition such as glaucoma or uveitis. 

Visine is not a “cure” for red eyes. It will not treat the cause of the condition, even though it may temporarily relieve symptoms of red eyes.

Can You Use Visine Every Day?

Visine is meant to be used as a temporary answer for treating red eyes and not as a permanent solution. You can use Visine occasionally for a short time, but you should not use it for more than 72 hours at a time or every day consistently. 

Using Visine regularly can actually make your red eyes worse. It can lead to “rebound redness” where your eyes will become persistently red and worse with time.

Visine works by constricting the blood vessels and limiting the blood flow to your eyes. With repeated use, your eyes can become accustomed to this. Blood flow can be altered, meaning that when you stop taking Visine, your eyes will be even more red than they were before. 

The vessels can become permanently enlarged after this dependency cycle has been set. This can make your eye redness worse rather than improving it.

Can It Kill You if Ingested?

Yes, Visine can kill you if you drink it. Tetrahydrozoline, the vasoconstrictor component of Visine, is processed differently through your system if taken by mouth than when placed in the eyes. 

When taken by mouth, the medication is absorbed through your gastrointestinal tract and into your blood circulation, traveling to your heart and through your central nervous system much more easily. This can cause your heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature to drop to dangerously low levels, which can lead to coma or death

Even in small amounts, ingesting Visine can be toxic with life-threatening results.


  1. Visine Eye Drops. (2016). Johnson & Johnson.
  2. Red Eye Drops: Poisonous to Drink, Safe if Used Correctly. (February 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  3. Redness-Relieving Eye Drops. (April 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.
  4. How Visine Eye Drops in the Mouth Can Kill, Here Are Two Cases. (January 2020). Forbes.
  5. Eye Whitening Drops: What You Need to Know. (June 2011). University of Utah.
  6. Management of the Red Eye for the Primary Care Physician. (April 2006). The American Journal of Medicine.

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