Using Eye Drops Correctly

Many patients with eye diseases including glaucoma, corneal infections, iritis/uveitis and dry eye rely on efficient and correct use of eye drops to manage their condition. Eye drops can sometimes be difficult to use properly; this can lead to a lack of action and wastage of the drops.

Tips for using your drops correctly:

  1. Wash your hands first. Avoid contaminating the tip of the bottle on your skin, hands or eye when you have opened the cap.
  2. Tilt your head backwards (some patients prefer to instead instill their drops lying down). Using one hand pull the lower lid down to form a pouch between the lid and your eye for the drop to fall into.
  3. With the other hand hold your bottle directly above your eye, a few centimetres away. Some patients find they can position the bottle best when they look right up at the tip (Figure 2).
  4. Some patients find it hard to balance like this, and will do better when they rest the body of the bottle across the nose. (Figure 1).
  5. Squeeze gently to release a drop into the eye. It can help to keep your eye drops in the fridge so that you feel the cool drop in your eye and know that it has gone in correctly.
  6. Release your lower lid gently and close your eye. Try not to squeeze too tightly as this may squeeze the drop out of your eye.
  7. Put a drop in the other eye if required.
  8. With the eyes closed, gently press on the inside corner of the eye for 2 minutes. This blocks the tear drainage ducts which keeps the drop in the eye and minimises the chance of any possible systemic side-effects from occurring.
  9. If you need to put a different drop into the eyes, allow 5 minutes between them so they do not wash each other out and reduce their effect.

CAPTION: Figure 1: Looking at tip of bottle to insert eye drop

CAPTION: Figure 2: Resting body of bottle against nose to insert eye drop

We stock a range of lubricating eye drops for dry eye at our online shop.

There is a very good video on the Glaucoma Australia website here www.glaucoma.org.au/eyedrops which shows how to put eye-drops in.

FAQ for Patients using Glaucoma Drops

  • Why do I have to use my eye drops permanently and continually?

In order to prevent visual loss the pressure must be constantly controlled. The effect of each dose of drops lasts for only a limited time. If a drop is given four times a day, it is because the effect of the drop only lasts about 6 hours. If the drops are not continuously used the pressure will creep back up again.

  • Do I have to get up at night to take my eye drops?

No. An undisturbed night is more important, but if prescribed for use three or more times daily, it is usually desirable to put them in last thing at night and as soon as you wake up in the morning.

  • Are my eye drops supposed to sting when I put them in?

All drops may cause some burning or stinging when instilled. Often, this effect is due not to the drug but to the antibacterial preservatives in the solution. It is rarely intolerable and can be used to advantage, since it lets the patient know that the drop went into the eye. If you are experiencing a high degree of discomfort you should report this to your eye specialist, as there may be different options for you.

  • If I have two lots of drops due at the same time, can I put them in together?

As mentioned above, it is probably best to allow five to ten minutes between drops to avoid one drop washing out the previous one. Ask your eye specialist for specific advice about the drops you are taking.

  • Do I need to put the drops in before I come to the clinic?

Yes. Always continue as usual unless requested otherwise. It helps the doctor to judge the effect of the treatment.

  • Does it matter if I put more drops into my eye than I should?

No, not usually. But your doctor will have prescribed you the optimal dosage for the medication you are using. If you are unsure whether the drops actually get in your eye, it may be useful to keep the drops in the refrigerator. You should feel the ‘cold’ of the drops and can be sure they have gone in.

  • How important is it to put the drops in at exactly the time stated?

It is obviously better to keep to the correct times, but sometimes circumstances make this difficult. In most circumstances, as long as you get the drops in within a few hours on either side of what you normally do, no harm will come.

  • What happens if I forget to put my drops in?

Put them in as soon as you remember and do not worry about it unduly. Nevertheless, make a determined effort to use them regularly and without fail.

  • Can I take other medicines at the same time as my glaucoma treatment?

Patients with certain types of glaucoma should have advice before taking some types of medications. Always mention to both your general practitioner and your eye specialist all the medications that you are taking and your doctor will advise you.

  • I use Xalatan in one eye and now have one eye with beautiful long eye lashes. I wish I’d had these in my younger days! But they seem to just keep on growing and growing. Will they keep growing indefinitely? They’re already bumping into my glasses.

It’s unlikely you’ll end up tripping over your lashes! The truth is that the drops prolong the life of the eyelashes. They continue to grow and so become longer. As with any hair, lashes will be shed and new ones grow. Long eyelashes are rarely a problem!

  • I have to go into hospital next month for an operation. Do I need to take my eye drops with me or can I give them a break for a while?

It’s very important to take your glaucoma medications with you and to continue with your glaucoma treatment. Make sure your doctors are informed that you take glaucoma medication. Sometimes glaucoma treatment gets overlooked because attention is being given to your other problems. Remind nursing staff if you think your drops have been forgotten.

  • What should I do if I forget to pack my eye drops on a trip overseas?

The short answer to this one is: don’t do it! Don’t ever jeopardise your sight by going away without your drops. Record the details of your medication and treatments on a card, along with the phone numbers of your eye health professionals back home. If you carry that in your wallet you will have information at hand if you need to seek a replacement prescription while overseas. Another good idea is to carry a brief summary letter from your ophthalmologist with you when you travel overseas. If you are a frequent traveller, it is a good idea to keep such a letter with your passport so it always travels with you. Seeing the letter might even serve to remind you to check that your drops are packed before you go.

  • I am finding it difficult to manage my eye drop bottle. Is there anything available to help me?

There are some devices to help you get your drops in. These are generally available from your eye specialist.