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Eye Drops: The Why, When, How, Who and Where

Why do you need to use eye drops?

Eye drops are THE most effective way of treating a whole range of eye conditions and symptoms, from a mild case of dry eyes to severe conjunctivitis, since they act DIRECTLY at the source of the problem.

Drugs such as antibiotics will of course be used to treat underlying infections and prevent spread throughout the body, but eye drops will be at the forefront of any treatment. Similarly eye drops will be used in the long-term treatment of glaucoma.

When to Use Eye Drops

•    You have some discomfort in the eye that isn’t serious and doesn’t seem to be infectious, just plain annoying, such as itchy, red or dry eyes or when you are suffering from eye strain.

•    You have a condition or infection that is primarily an eye or eyelid presentation such as conjunctivitis or blepharitis

•    It’s a good time to take them as recommended by your Optical Professional! Before going to bed is often a good time often recommended by Optometrists and Ophthalmologists, when your eyes can rest and absorb the medication. It’s also good to have a regular timeslot to avoid forgetting to medicate.

How to administer Eye Drops

Before you start – wash your hands thoroughly, or use a disinfectant hand gel, and clean your eyes with a fresh tissue.

Read the instructions on the bottle; you might need to shake the bottle to dissolve some of the medication.

Most people choose to sit or stand in front of a mirror, but that might not always be practical.

Tilt your head backwards, pull your lower eyelid down – looking up, hold the bottle or single plastic package and let a drop fall into the lower eyelid. Instinctively you will probably blink, which will spread the liquid.

If you have to administer a second drop, wait a few minutes or else the first drop will get inadvertently washed out, spoiling all your good work.

After administering each drop it is a great idea to close your eyelids and sit around without blinking for a minute or two.  Studies have shown that eye drop medicatioin is nearly always more effective if you do not blink with your eyes closed for a while.

Make sure you keep everything clean and then put everything away securely for the next time.

Who should administer your eye drops?

The first person that springs to mind is you! Very often it’s the only option, but if you aren’t very good at it, and it does take practice, then someone else can probably do a better job.

One of the problems of dropping a drop of liquid into your eye yourself is that you “know when it’s coming” and often blink.  Someone else is more like to take you by surprise and get the job done more quickly and efficiently, and no doubt will enjoy the nursing experience.

Where are you going to get your eye drops from?

If you have dry, red or itchy eyes, or are suffering eye strain, then your local pharmacist has a range of over the counter (OTC) eye drops from which he or she can recommend for your circumstances.  If you feel that you cannot make it to your optometrist make sure you speak with the pharmacist not one of the staff, who has no training.

Viral, antibiotic and steroid anti-inflammatory eye drops will of course need to be prescribed, so a visit to a therapeutic optometrist is required.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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