It’s day three of National Eye Health Week and today’s blog is following the theme of, ‘Apothecary for the eyes’, by bringing patients and carers some advice on eye drops. The administration of eye drops seems pretty straight forward, but a recent study found that it is estimated that between 30% and 50% of all medicines prescribed for long-term conditions are not taken as recommended by NICE, including eye drops. It is also reported that up to 50% of glaucoma patients are non-compliant with treatment. So what can we do to make sure we’re getting it right every time? Here are some hints and tips on how to administer eye drops correctly, but most importantly remember to always follow the advice of your eye care practitioner.
Regardless of what type of eye drop you are using, correct instillation is key to obtaining the most benefit. Firstly, you don’t want to introduce any foreign objects into your eyes, so be sure to wash and dry your hands before using eye drops. Do not allow the dropper tip to touch anything (including your eye).
If you wear contact lenses, remove the lens and wash your hands again before you administer the drop. Wait 15 minutes before putting the lens back in your eye.
Find a comfortable position and shake your drop bottle gently. Create a pocket with your lower lid by placing your finger gently below your lower lashes and pull down slightly. Tilting your head back slightly will mean a straighter path for the drop into your eye and looking up will reduce your chances of blinking. You may find it useful to practice this setup several times prior to actually using your eye drops.
If you start with the eye drop bottle at the side of your head, then move it into position above the pocket, you will be sure to “hit” your eye and not another part of your face. Keep the eye drop bottle around 5 to 7cms away from your eye. Gently squeeze or tap to administer one drop.
Slowly close your eyelid and wait for about two minutes for the eye drop to be absorbed by your eye. Putting your finger over the inner corner of your eye will also help prevent the eye drop from draining from your eye. You may need eye drops in both your eyes, if so repeat the same procedure in your other eye.
If you use more than one type of drop be sure to leave adequate time in-between administering the drops, this is usually 5 minutes, but if in doubt check with your eyecare practitioner. If you use a drop more than once a day, make sure the times are evenly spaced.
Wash your hands immediately afterwards.
Once opened, an eye drop bottle can easily become contaminated regardless of the expiry date. The most common contamination occurs by touching or wiping the dropper tip. Expired eye drops should never be used, and some clinicians recommend disposing of eye drops a month after opening, even if you don’t think the drops are contaminated. Unused eye drops should never be saved for the next time and you should not use anyone else’s eye drops.
If you use eye drops on a regular basis, check your technique in a mirror from time to time. After all practice makes perfect. You may have difficulty sensing whether your eye drop has “hit” your eye, if so keep your drops in the fridge. You will sense the coolness of the drop and know that you were successful, but first check if your drops can be stored at fridge temperatures. Get into a routine; if your eye drop doesn’t need to be in the fridge, put the bottle by your toothbrush.
If you have trouble getting drops into your eye, you can purchase an ‘auto-drop’ eye drop dispenser from chemists, which assists in administering eye drops. These are easy to use, and many patients find them very useful. You can also pick up an eye drop timetable or set an alert on your phone which will help you to remember to take your drops and space them evenly throughout the day.
Please always follow the advice of your eyecare practitioner and remember to read the label.
If you’ve ever had to use an eye drop, or if you do use eye drops regularly, it is important to use them properly to get the most benefit. Keeping your eyes healthy is a lifelong activity, and using eye drops correctly is a key component. After all, an eye drop may be essential to maintaining good vision.
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