Questions About Eye Drops
Why are eye drops used in glaucoma?
The answer is to help prevent the loss of vision from glaucoma. The exact cause of glaucoma is not known, but we know age, family history and raised pressure in the eyes (intraocular pressure) are risk factors. Of these, only the eye pressure is modifiable, and lowering it slows the loss of peripheral, and then central, vision in glaucoma. Eye drops are the commonest and preferred way of achieving this.
Why do I have to use my eye drops permanently and continually ?
In order to prevent visual loss the pressure must be constantly controlled. The effect of each dose of drops lasts for only a limited time. If a drop is given four times a day, it is because the effect of the drop only lasts about 6 hours. If the drops are not continuously used the pressure will creep back up again.
Do I have to get up at night to take my eye drops?
No. An undisturbed night is more important, but if prescribed for use three or more times daily, it is usually desirable to put them in last thing at night and as soon as you wake up in the morning.
Are my eye drops supposed to sting when I put them in?
All drops may cause some burning or stinging when instilled. Often, this effect is due not to the drug but to the antibacterial preservatives in the solution. It is rarely intolerable and can be used to advantage, since it lets the patient know that the drop got into the eye. If you are experiencing a lot of discomfort you should report this to your eye specialist, as there may be different options for you.
If I have two lots of drops due at the same time, can I put them in together?
It is probably best to allow five to ten minutes between drops to avoid one drop washing out the previous one. Ask your eye specialist for specific advice about the drops you are taking.
Do I need to put the drops in before I come to the clinic?
Yes. Always continue as usual unless requested otherwise. It helps the doctor to judge the effect of the treatment.
Does it matter if I put more drops into my eye than I should?
No, not usually. But your doctor will have prescribed you the optimal dosage for the medication you are using. If you are unsure whether the drops actually get in your eye, it may be useful to keep the drops in the refrigerator. You should feel the ‘cold’ of the drops and can be sure they have gone in.
How important is it to put the drops in at exactly the time stated?
It is obviously better to keep to the correct times, but sometimes circumstances make this difficult. In most circumstances, as long as you get the drops in within a few hours on either side of what you normally do, no harm will come.
What happens if I forget to put my drops in?
Put them in as soon as you remember and do not worry about it unduly. Nevertheless make a determined effort to use them regularly and without fail.
Can I take other medicines at the same time as my glaucoma treatment?
Patients with certain types of glaucoma should have advice before taking some types of medications. Always mention to both your general practitioner and your eye specialist all the medications that you are taking and your doctor will advise you.
I use Xalatan in one eye and now have one eye with beautiful long eye lashes. I wish I’d had these in my younger days! But they seem to just keep on growing and growing. Will they keep growing indefinitely? They’re already bumping into my glasses.
It’s unlikely you’ll end up tripping over your lashes! The truth is that the drops prolong the life of the eyelashes. They continue to grow and so become longer. As with any hair lashes will be shed and new ones grow. Long eyelashes are rarely a problem!
I have to go into hospital next month for an operation. Do I need to take my eye drops with me or can I give them a break for a while?
It’s very important to take your glaucoma medications with you and to continue with your glaucoma treatment. Make sure your doctors are informed that you take glaucoma medication. You can use your Glaucoma NZ ID card to record your ophthalmologist’s name and the details of your medication. Sometimes glaucoma treatment gets overlooked because attention is being given to your other problems. Remind nursing staff if you think your drops have been forgotten.
What should one do if one forgets to pack one’s eye drops on a trip overseas?
The short answer to this one is don’t do it! Don’t ever jeopardise your sight by going away without your drops! The Glaucoma NZ ID card has space for recording details of your medication and treatments as well as the phone numbers of your eye health professionals in New Zealand. If you carry that in your wallet you will have information at hand if you need to seek a replacement prescription while overseas. Another good idea is to carry a brief summary letter from your ophthalmologist with you when you travel overseas. If you are a frequent traveller why not keep such a letter with your passport, so it travels with you. Who knows, seeing the letter might even serve to remind you to check that your drops are packed before you go.
I am finding it difficult to manage my eye drop bottle. Is there anything available to help me?
There are some devices to help you get your drops in. They are generally available from your eye specialist. Ask at your eye clinic.