Are Lumify Eye Whitening Drops Actually Safe?

Lumify eye drops promise brighter, whiter eyes without the risk of rebound redness.

Eye drops, like Visine and Clear Eyes, that claim to get rid of redness deliver on the promise—but usually only for a while. Then, they can have a rebound effect, resulting in more redness. And that redness requires more drops... And the cycle goes on. 

"You need more and more drugs for the same effect because the body is trying to react to constant stimulation," said Rahul Pandit, MD, an ophthalmologist with the Blanton Eye Institute at Houston Methodist Hospital.

But there's a potentially better player on pharmacy shelves: Eye drops called Lumify. Eye whitening drops with the active ingredient brimonidine, like Lumify, promise white, red-free eyes. Here's what you need to know about whether Lumify is safe to use.

What are Lumify Eye Whitening Drops?

The Food and Drug Administration approves Lumify for relieving eye redness in people above 5. Essentially, Lumify is similar to Visine in that it reduces redness. 

It whitens the eyes, said Amy Lin, MD, associate professor in ophthalmology at the University of Utah Moran Eye Center. But it's different than other eye drops. It's unlikely to lead to the rebound redness some people get when they stop using the typical drops, added Dr. Lin.

Visine and similar drugs work by constricting blood vessels in the eye. They do that by working on the eye's alpha-1 receptor. Lumify also constricts blood vessels but acts on a different receptor: Alpha-2. 

According to Bausch & Lomb, the manufacturers of Lumify, targeting alpha-2 instead of alpha-1 constricts small veins but not small arteries. So it avoids the rebound effect.

"It's in the same family [as Visine, Clear Eyes, and related medications], just a little bit more specific," explained Laurie Barber, MD, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Lumify is, in fact, a much lower dose of a long-standing glaucoma medication called Alphagan (brimonidine). Usually, Alphagan is available by prescription. It decreases pressure and fluid in the eyes.

"The dose that's used for glaucoma is four to eight times what Lumify is, so it's a safe drug," said Dr. Lin.

Possible Risks of Lumify Eye Drops

Lumify is generally safe. However, every drug has potential risks and side effects, and Lumify is no exception.

Side Effects of Use

Six studies involving 600 participants reported a low risk for rebound redness when using Lumify.

The effects of the drops—usually given four times a day in the studies—lasted up to eight hours. A small percentage of participants experienced the following temporary side effects:

  • Itching
  • Feeling like there's a foreign body in the eye
  • Tearing
  • Pain

The original Alphagan also comes with side effects. For example, there's a high incidence of an allergic response to brimonidine in people with glaucoma, said Dr. Lin. 

People can also have reactions to the preservatives in Alphagan. But the lower concentration may have fewer downsides, added Dr. Pandit, who consulted for Bausch & Lomb.

Stop using Lumify and consult a healthcare provider if you experience any of the following side effects that worsen or last longer than three days:

  • Eye pain
  • Irritation
  • Redness
  • Vision changes

Possibility of Masking Eye Problems

Dr. Barber pointed out that four times a day "is a lot of drops to be using." In fact, it's the maximum amount of drops.

"I'm concerned because when patients use it on a consistent basis, it masks a symptom we need to know about," Dr. Barber said. "If a patient has red eyes and doesn't know what's causing them, they need to be seen by an ophthalmologist."

Dr. Barber added that Lumify might be okay for occasional use—say, once a month—if your eyes are red from fatigue.

On the other hand, Dr. Pandit was more enthusiastic: "I'm really happy about it," Dr. Pandit said.

After all, red eyes are common, whether from allergies, dust, sun exposure, staring at a glowing screen for prolonged periods, or wearing your contact lenses too long. Some people even have a genetic predisposition to redness in their eyes.

"We can control the allergic reaction response, but the redness portion is the most difficult thing to treat," Dr. Pandit said. "Now we have something to offer them. This is the happy quotient we've been waiting for."

However, red eyes can also be a sign of more serious concerns, such as:

  • Blepharitis
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Glaucoma
  • Uveitis

Seek immediate medical care if you notice any of the following eye changes:

  • Your eyes become red after a penetrating injury.
  • You see halos around lights. 
  • Your eye redness is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or a headache with confusion or blurred vision.  

You'll want to contact a healthcare provider if an object might be in your eye, you are taking a blood-thinning medication, or your eye redness lasts more than two days. Also, it may be helpful to consult a healthcare provider if you're experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Extreme light sensitivity
  • Eye pain
  • Vision changes
  • Yellow or green discharge from one or both eyes

A Quick Review

Using Lumify is an effective and generally safe way to combat eye redness. Still, as with any drug, it is not without the risk of side effects. 

You shouldn't use Lumify as a substitute for medical attention if you're experiencing eye redness for a prolonged time or alongside other concerning symptoms.

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Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Lumify Drops. Clinical information.

  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. New over-the-counter eye-whitening drop hits store shelves.

  4. National Library of Medicine. Brimonidine ophthalmic.

  5. Lee JS, Kim CY. Brimonidine tartrate ophthalmic solution 0.025% for redness relief: an overview of safety and efficacyExpert Rev Clin Pharmacol. 2022;15(8):911-919. doi:10.1080/17512433.2022.2112948

  6. Lumpy Drops. Frequently asked questions about LUMIFY® eye drops.

  7. National Library of Medicine. Eye redness.

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