Glaucoma Eye Drops: Suggestions on Use

Eye drops for glaucoma contain medications. Bottle shapes and sizes vary as do the type of containers.

Most commercially made eye drops deliver a drop that is bigger than the eye can hold. Because of this, it is normal for a small proportion of the drop to roll over onto your cheek. Also, different bottle types may last varying amounts of time as each may have a distinctive eye drop size.

It is difficult to squeeze just one drop from a bottle at a time. It is therefore normal for a bottle not to last as long as your pharmacy provider may think it should. If that happens, make sure you remind your pharmacy that CMS (Medicare) and many states have mandated that you are allowed extra eye drop refills.

Eye drops can be challenging to instill. Here are some tips you may find helpful.

  • Before instilling drops, make sure to wash your hands. Dirty hands can result in eye infections which may be serious.
  • Often, when beginning to use drops, it is hard to tell if the drop actually went in the eye or not. You might want to refrigerate your eye drop bottle - when you put the drop in, you will feel the cold drop on your eye and know that you are successful (this is not necessary to preserve the drop, but useful to help you discover if the drop actually touches your eye).
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Open eye with your non-dominant hand.

  • Almost 20% of people are unable to put drops onto their own eyes for various reasons and are reliant upon others. They may have tremors, poor vision, poor coordination, or just fear. Don’t feel badly if this is you. Depending upon your situation, make sure you find a friend or family member to help you.
  • If your doctor has prescribed more than one type of eye drop, wait five minutes before putting the next drop in your eye.

There are many methods for instilling drops; the following suggested method works well for many people.

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Instilling the eye drop.

  1. Make sure that your eye is open. Use any finger to open your eye - most people prefer to use the first finger of their non-dominant hand (your left hand if you are right-handed).
  2. Make sure the bottle is aiming downwards. (Let gravity help you). Also, have your eye perpendicular to the bottle by having your head parallel with the floor. The easiest way to do this is to lie down or sit back in a chair. In this way, the drop will go straight down onto your eye, rather than fall on your lid or your cheek.
  3. Finally, brace the thumb of your dominant hand (right hand if you are right-handed) on the first finger of the non-dominant hand. By doing this you will be able to accurately aim a drop onto your eye.

Make sure that you have a friend or your doctor watch you instill the drop in your eye. If you are having problems, ask your doctor or your doctor’s technician for help.

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Article by Alan L. Robin, MD, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Wilmer Institute and Associate Professor, International Health at Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, MD.

Last reviewed on August 20, 2012

This article appeared in the January 2012 issue of Gleams. Subscribe

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