The routine use of topical anesthetics to alleviate discomfort associated with in vivo ocular irritancy testing has been advocated. This review provides information about the adverse effects of topical ocular anesthetics and answers the questions: are topical anesthetics practical and effective in ocular irritancy protocols, is long-term use contraindicated, will topical anesthetics alter the response of a test substance, and are there significant side-effects which might cause pain and suffering in test animals? There was no evidence to support the use of a specific topical anesthetic. Further, information about using systemic analgesics or combinations with local anesthetics that would effectively alleviate discomfort associated with ocular irritancy testing without affecting test results was not found. Comprehensive studies are needed to identify the most effective combination of drugs that would ameliorate discomfort associated with ocular irritation testing.