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How to use ophthalmic medication

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For some people, putting drops or any other product in their eyes is a major challenge. Because eyes are so fragile, and most of all indispensable, the correct use of medication is vital to keep them healthy. Here are a few tips to help you do so.

Appliquez vos médicaments ophtalmiques correctement

Healthy eyes: a priority

In a single day, your eyes achieve countless accomplishments without you even noticing. Their skillset is endless: performing detailed tasks, expressing emotions, communicating, recognizing danger, etc. Sometimes, our eyes need a bit of help to fulfill their duties; such is the case when their health is jeopardized.

There are several diseases that can affect the eyes, and often, the kind of treatment required is medication that you put directly into them. It is called “ophthalmic” and often comes in the form of drops, gel or ointment. Knowing how to use this type of medication correctly maximizes its effectiveness and safety.

Why you might need ophthalmic medication

Several medical conditions can require ophthalmic treatments, such as:

  • eye dryness;
  • glaucoma;
  • allergy (ex: seasonal allergies);
  • infection;
  • inflammation;
  • injury;
  • surgery.

The consequences of incorrect use

Using eye products requires certain precautions so that the treatment can be optimal and safe. Here are some examples of consequences that could result from incorrectly using these products:

  • decreased effectiveness;
  • loss of product (wasting);
  • adverse effects;
  • eye injury (for example, if you scratch it with the tip of the container);
  • product contamination.

For maximum effectiveness

  • Closely follow your pharmacist and doctor’s recommendations regarding dosage and instructions.
  • Never put more drops that are required. However, if you believe you “lost” a drop (if, for example, it ran down your cheek), put in another.
  • Put in one drop at a time. The eye cannot hold more than one drop; if you put in more, the excess liquid will leak out of the eye. Wait five minutes between two drops of the same medication.
  • If you must use several different products, wait five minutes between each one.
  • In this case, it is important to ask your pharmacist at what time and in what order your ophthalmic medications must be administered.

Precautions to avoid contamination

Products that are designed for ophthalmic use are sterile, meaning that they are free of germs, as long as they are not open. Once open, they are at higher risk of becoming contaminated. In addition, improper storage or exposure to less-than-ideal conditions can have an impact on their quality. Here are a few tips to avoid contamination and to ensure optimal quality:

  • When you administer a product, avoid contact between the tip of the container (dropper, tube, etc.) and your hands, eyes, skin or any other surface.
  • Close the container immediately after use.
  • Make sure that the product is not used by anyone else.

Storage of ophthalmic products

Here are a few recommendations about proper storage:

  • Store your products in a clean, cool area. Avoid places that tend to get humid, too hot or too cold, like the bathroom, car or cabinet above the stove. A better choice would be, for example, a nightstand drawer.
  • Only store the product in the refrigerator if that is what the manufacturer or pharmacist recommends.
  • Always check the product’s expiration date before using it. If it is expired, don’t use it and bring it back to the pharmacy.
  • Ask your pharmacist to tell you when the product will expire after it is opened. Note the day your open it and the date of expiration. Usually, you should stop using the product one month after opening it.
  • Never throw away a product that is expired, unused or no longer needed in the trash or anywhere else. Instead, bring it to the pharmacy, where the laboratory personnel will dispose of it in a way that is safe for the environment.

How to administer your ophthalmic medication

The following describes the steps to follow to properly administer your medication:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. Dry them with a clean towel.
  • Get in front of a mirror if you find it helpful to see what you’re doing.
  • Shake the container if that is what the pharmacist recommended.
  • Open the container; avoid all contact between the tip and your eye.  
  • Tilt your head slightly backwards.
  • Gently pull down the lower eyelid so as to form a small pocket.
  • Look up.
  • Bring the container close to your eye.
  • Rest the hand holding the container on the hand pulling the eyelid for extra stability.
  • If the product consists of drops, put in one single drop in the middle of the lower lid.
  • Make sure that the drop was properly deposited into the eye.
  • If the product consists of an ointment or gel, apply a thin layer all along the inside of the lower eyelid, starting with the nose and continuing toward the outside corner of the eye. Once the application is done, close the container quickly so that no product leaks out.
  • Slowly close the eye. Keep it closed for between 30 seconds and two minutes to ensure better contact of the medication with your eye.
  • Avoid rubbing your eye or touching it unnecessarily after applying the product.
  • Gently wipe any excess product that may have leaked with a clean tissue.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly to remove any residue of medication.

Note that you may possibly experience certain side effects after administering ophthalmic medication, such as a slight burning sensation, irritation, discomfort or feeling like there is a foreign body in your eye. Your vision might also be blurred for a few minutes. These side effects are usually short-lived.

More tips

If you are having difficulty using ophthalmic medication, know that you are not alone. Here are other ways to make things a bit easier:

  • Ask someone who lives with you to administer your medication. Oftentimes, it is easier to do it for someone else than to do it for yourself.
  • Consult your pharmacist to find out if there are devices available to make it easier to use the medication. Such products may be available at the pharmacy.  
  • If you have to administer the medication to a child, have him or her sit down or lie down (on his or her back), which will make the process easier for you.

Your pharmacist is a well-placed health professional to provide you with advice on the best and safest way to use ophthalmic medication. You’ll see!

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