Glaucoma Eye Drops Prevent Vision Loss — But Only if Patients Use Them

Glaucoma care is a team approach.
Glaucoma care is a team approach.

Glaucoma is a chronic disease that leads to vision loss. Prescription eye drops work to prevent glaucoma progression but only if taken on a regular and consistent basis.

Research has shown that approximately 40% of patients do not take their glaucoma medications as prescribed, or do not continue to refill them.

It is important to tell your eye doctor about how you use your eye drops and to provide truthful information about any issues you have; your doctor can then use this information to tailor a plan that works best for you.

Many patients have cycling or "on-off" behavior with eye drops, sometimes only using drops before their next appointment. This can be damaging to your eyes and confusing to the doctor who needs to measure changes to your eye pressure over time.

Share Information with your Doctor

Sharing with your doctor both “why” and “when” you miss taking your drops can help. For example, some patients can fit drops into their schedule better in the morning or the evening. You might match your drop schedule to a specific activity in your routine, such as morning coffee or brushing your teeth. Some patients may benefit from keeping an extra bottle at work. Cell phone reminders can also be helpful.

If cost is an issue, please tell your doctor. Patients may be eligible for benefit packages from the pharmaceutical companies or in some cases, drops can be switched to more affordable ones. If getting drops into the eye is difficult, please tell your doctor. Sometimes simple changes such as lying back, positioning the bottle straight up and down, or stabilizing your hand can help. Consider having a family member help if you are still having difficulty. If you think the eye drops are causing side effects, please inform your doctor.

A few more tips:

  • Remember to pack your drops when traveling and keep in your carry-on baggage
  • Wait 5 minutes between putting in different eye drops
  • Close your eyes firmly for at least 30 seconds after putting in eye drops

Glaucoma care is a team approach; preventing eye damage only works if the patient follows the treatment plan at home in-between visits to the doctor.

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schwartz_100.jpg Article by Gail F. Schwartz, MD, a glaucoma specialist in private practice at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland. She is also an Assistant Professor at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is active in research and teaching, and is the author of many articles on varying aspects of glaucoma therapy.

Last reviewed on March 13, 2014

This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Gleams. Subscribe

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