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Using eye drops

AOP’s Ian Beasley offers some expert advice on using eye drops

17 Oct 2016 by Ian Beasley

As the nights draw in and there is that cold snap to the morning air it can only signal one thing – the end of the summer. Thankfully, and most definitely on the plus side, it marks the conclusion of a rather savage hay fever season and I’m relieved to say the endless contorting and fiddling of ‘eye drop season’ for me as well.  

In my professional capacity as an optometrist I administer eye drops to patients regularly and it is a task I can do, well, almost with my eyes closed. But it is a very different story when using them in my own eyes against a squeezed morning schedule of the school run, half-eaten toast and a three-gulp cup of coffee.

For that reason, the beginning of the hay fever season always sparks the same thought – 'if eye drops are tricky for me to use then how difficult must they be for someone who is using them for the first time?' It must be especially hard if that person is more restricted because they are suffering with a condition such as rheumatoid arthritis. 

Eye drops are used, either prescribed or bought over the counter, as a treatment for common eye complaints including dry eye and the inflammation of the eyes that I, along with my fellow sufferers, experience with hay fever. For the most part they are designed to make your eyes feel more comfortable and help you manage the symptoms.  

However, eye drops have a much more crucial function with an eye condition such as glaucoma where daily eye drops aim to reduce the pressure in the eye. Using eye drops as prescribed is essential because if left untreated the pressure build up from glaucoma can severely damage your vision. 

So here are a few tips that I’ve put together for anyone who is finding using their eye drops as awkward as I do.

  • When sitting down, tilt your head back and use your finger to gently pull down your lower eyelid to create a pocket. Then bring the bottle two to three centimetres (about an inch in ‘old money’) above the eye surface (holding the bottle vertically) before gently squeezing it until you feel the drop hit your eye. Be careful not to touch your eye with the bottle as this can transfer bacteria and potentially lead to infection.
  • If you have glaucoma and are using prescription eye drops you need to make sure that the drops penetrate your eye and are as effective as possible. Use the two minute rule to do this – keep your eyelids closed for a full two minutes after treatment. If you are using two different types of eye drops, allow at least five to 10 minutes between using the different types.

If you are still finding it difficult, you may find it easier to lay down flat – using the same technique.

I’ve put this advice together for people that are using eye drops already but if you are experiencing a new discomfort in your eyes or any changes to your vision it’s always best to speak to your optometrist.

To keep your eyes healthy – make sure you have a sight test every two years or more often if your optometrist advises it. 

For more information on eye health and eye conditions, explore our For patients section.

Ian BeasleyOptometrist, Dr Ian Beasley, is Clinical Editor for Optometry Today, Head of Education for the Association of Optometrists and postgraduate researcher at Aston University