Consumer Alert: These eye drops have been linked to blindness and death. Here’s what you need to do.

Our consumer alert takes a look at a product that might be in your medicine cabinet right now.

They’re eye drops that have caused severe eye infections right here in New York and eleven other states across the country. The CDC says we should immediately stop using EzriCare Artificial Tears.

The CDC says some of the eye drops contain a mutant strain of a bacteria called Pseudomonas aeruginosa It’s a nine-syllabic monster that can run rampant in hospitals. And the bacterial strain in these eye drops is resistant to antibiotics.

I’ve used EzriCare Artificial Tears. They’re sold across the country in stores like Walmart, Amazon and drug stores. Those of us with chronic dry eye use drops all day long. And optometrists recommend drops without preservatives. because if you use drops four times a day or more, the preservatives in eye drops can make your dry eye worse and cause a host of other problems.

EzriCare eye drops don’t have preservatives, and CDC scientists believe that’s part of the reason the bacteria grew with abandon. Fifty-five consumers in 12 states including New York got infections so severe some were hospitalized. Some went blind, and one person died.

So did these drops become contaminated during the manufacturing process? It’s possible. The CDC is investigating. So you may be asking the same thing I did.

Are preservative-free eye drops safe? Experts say the answer is yes. But when using them, we, as consumers, must take steps to stay safe.

So here’s Deanna’s Do List for eye drop use:

  • Most preservative-free eye drops come in single-use vials. Never use a single-use vial more than once.
  • Always wash your hands first.
  • Never touch your eye or lashes with the dropper.
  • There are some multi-use, preservative-free drops in bottles that are designed to release the drop without allowing airflow back into the bottle. That’s supposed to protect your drops from exposure to microorganisms that cause disease. The Columbia Eye Clinic says you should place the cap on its side on a clean dry tissue. And it’s especially important not to let the dropper touch your eye or your lashes.

When you have dry eye, you know eye drops are essential. My eyes physically hurt when I don’t use them. But experts say you should not be afraid of preservative-free drops just because of these cases involving EzriCare drops. But what happened to these victims is a reminder that we must use care when using eye drops.

If you have any concerns about your drops, get advice from your doctor about recommended brands best for you.