Most patients can learn to administer their own glaucoma drops. Our physicians and ophthalmic technicians at EyeHealth Northwest would be pleased to demonstrate the technique to you and help you learn to successfully administer your own drops.
Eye Drop Technique
- First, wash your hands and have a clean tissue available.
- Pick up your drop bottle, confirm that it is the correct medication and then remove the cap (do not let the bottle tip touch anything). For a right-handed person, hold the bottle in your right hand.
- Use the forefinger of your left hand to pull down the lower eyelid (creating a “pocket” between the lid and eyeball).
- Place the wrist of the right hand on the knuckles of your left hand. The bottle is now positioned over the “pocket”.
- Look up and gently squeeze the bottle until a drop falls into your eye. Only one drop is required (the eye can only hold 10% of one drop so you will always have excess medication to wipe away – this does not necessarily mean you missed your eye). Extra drops may increase your risk of side effects.
- Close your eye for at least one minute.
Some patients find this process easier if they recline back in an easy-chair or lie on their bed. If you cannot feel the drop hit your eye, you may want to keep your drops in the refrigerator. It will be much easier to feel the cold drop hit your eye. If you use more than one kind of eye drop, always wait at least 5 minutes between the different drops (so they don’t wash each other out and decrease the desired effect).
Reducing Side Effects
Glaucoma drops contain medication that can affect other parts of the body. Closing the eye (without blinking) for 1-2 minutes will increase the beneficial effect and will decrease the amount of medicine that goes into the bloodstream via the nose, thus decreasing bodily side effects. Blinking pumps drops into your nose, increasing side effects. Pressing with a finger near the corner of the eye (“punctual occlusion”) may also be helpful, but must be properly performed (ask your glaucoma doctor to demonstrate). Like all medications, these drops should never be shared with anyone else.
Eye Drop Storage
Most eye drops should be kept in a cool place and protected from intense heat or sunlight. They should never be left in a parked car. These medications should not be stopped without consulting the ophthalmologist (unless severe illness or allergy occurs). Glaucoma medications should be used regularly, especially on the day of an office visit, so that the treating physician can accurately assess how well the medication is working. Otherwise, the time of the patient and the physician will have been wasted. It is also important to bring all of one’s medications to every clinic visit to help the physician determine if each medication is being taken correctly.
Do not store eye drops with any other drop bottles (like superglue, nail polish, ear drops). Many patients have accidentally put toxic liquids in their eyes because they stored them with their eye drops. Eye drops have color-coded caps to help in identification, but the caps can get mixed up!
Learn the name and cap color of your medications so you avoid mixing up the caps and taking your medications incorrectly. If you do not see well enough to tell your drops apart, please discuss this with your doctor and staff.
Successful glaucoma patients develop a support system to help them take their drops at the right times. This often involves taking medication at natural transition times such as waking up, at mealtimes and at bedtime. Smartphones, alarm clock or watch can be very helpful to remind you of drop times. There are several applications for smartphones that can be downloaded free of charge. Some patients have friends or family members call them for reminders. A written chart of your daily drops and dose times is critical to keeping track of when and if you take your drops (this can be kept on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror).