Did you know there are rules for using eye drops? Whether using a handy little bottle you picked up from the pharmacy or a doctor-prescribed solution, it is important to know how to use them safely. Believe it or not, it is possible to cause damage to your eyes with the same solution meant to treat their discomfort. It won’t just lead to a few extra tears, either. Improper application can lead to a variety of issues, including irritation, infection, dependence, and injury. These 8 rules will help you learn how to apply eye drops properly and prevent an accident or further injury.
1. Wash your hands with soap and water before putting eye drops in your eyes.
Your hands can transfer harmful bacteria and dust directly into your eye. Do not touch the tip of the applicator with your fingers before applying, even if nothing comes out of the bottle. Those supposedly soothing drops could inadvertently become a perfect vehicle for transporting irritants onto the surface of your eye.
2. Apply one drop at a time.
Don’t flood your eyes with a river. One drop will get the job done. A single overpour is not going to damage your eye, but it is a waste of your solution. Both over-the-counter and prescription eye medication can be pricey, so it’s best to conserve every last drop.
3. Do not touch the tip of the eye drop bottle to the surface of your eye.
If your eyes have an infection like conjunctivitis, it can be transferred to the tip of the bottle and then spread to your other eye or someone else’s. If you cannot properly aim without touching the surface, ask your eye doctor for tips on how to put eye drops in your own eyes.
4. Avoid overusing your eye drops.
It is possible to overuse eye drops and cause complications. How often can you use them? The answer depends on your doctor’s recommendation. Generally, you should not apply eye drops with preservatives (contained in most OTC drops) more than four times per day. You should also not use them for extended periods of time without seeing an eye care professional. Chronic dry eye could be a symptom of a deeper issue.
5. Keep your eyes closed after application.
Close your eye briefly after putting eye drops in. There is no need to blink rapidly to spread the solution around. Closing your eyes will contain the drops and allow them to do their job. You don’t want them leaking out! Most people are miserable enough applying them without having to do it twice in one sitting.
6. Remove your contacts before using eye drops.
This rule does not apply to rewetting drops designed for contact lens users. Are they bad for your eyes if you wear contacts? Unless the bottle explicitly states it is safe to use with contacts, it could cause damage to the lenses. If your eye medication is prescribed for several applications per day for several days, it may be best to switch to your glasses until your prescription or eye drop regimen is complete.
7. Don’t mix.
Eye drops are a medication and a chemical and they should be treated as such. That includes not mixing medications without the instruction of your doctor. Two separate eye formulas may react poorly when combined and you do not want your eyeballs as their battleground. If you must use multiple formulas, give yourself time between, to minimize the potential for a negative reaction.
8. Do not use expired drops.
Expired eye drops become ineffective, making them useless for their intended purpose. Not only that, the longer they sit on the shelf after expiration, the greater the chance that they could become a vector for bacteria and infection. The preservative properties that prevent contamination lose their strength after a while, leaving you vulnerable to infection.
Following these simple rules is the best way to use eye drops safely and ensure they benefit your eyes. If you have more questions about how often to use eye drops or how to put drops in your eyes, our experienced team of eye care professionals is here to help. If you’ve been using eye drops for a prolonged period of time and you are concerned it may be a sign of a chronic condition, we can answer questions about that, too. Give us a call to set up an appointment.