The importance of eye medication adherence can’t be stressed enough. Adhering to eye medication can help keep your eyes healthy and protect your vision for long-term eye health and a better quality of life. Part of medication adherence is knowing what to take, when to take it and how to follow your doctor’s orders….and it also means knowing when to avoid medications, when the ask questions and how to know when it’s time to see the doctor.
Everyone knows it is important to take medications as prescribed. Your doctor is making assumptions about your treatments based on their instructions and then follow-up to assess the effectiveness of medications. The fact is that it is difficult to use medications. For best treatment results, using the medication at least 80% is optimal but most studies find that most patients only have a 50% adherence to the prescribed medication. (1) In ophthalmology, the blinding disease called glaucoma is most often treated with eye drops to lower eye pressure. Eye drops are also used to help the eye after surgical procedures and to prevent infection. It is very important to take any eye drop as prescribed for the intended problem for the intended timeframe. Serious problems such as irreversible vision loss can occur if eye medications are not taken correctly.
TIPS FOR REMEMBERING TO TAKE YOUR EYE DROPS:
- For short term treatments like an eye infection or post-surgery, a chart can be very useful to remember your drops. Many eye care providers will generate a table with times of day and a calendar for you to mark off after instillation of drops. Ask your provider to help you.
- If you take drops for a chronic problem like dry eyes or glaucoma, you may want to put your eye drops within eyesight and at a place you see daily at the time you take the drops. For example, if you take drops in the morning and at night, you may want to put the drops on your nightstand by your lamp. Alternatively, you can put the drop by your toothbrush so you can also remember to brush your teeth!
- Your phone can be very helpful. You can set an alarm to take your medications.
- You can also download an app on your phone. There are many apps that will remind you to take medications. Also, these apps can track your compliance for your doctor and send reminders to your pharmacy for refills.
- You can set up automatic refills for your pharmacy so that you do not have to call to refill your medicines. This can also ensure that you do not lapse your medicine by forgetting to call or if the pharmacy must contact your doctor there is not a delay in your getting your medications.
- Ask your insurance if they would allow a 90-day supply for your medication.
WHEN SHOULD YOU NOT TAKE EYE DROPS?
- Please do not take any eye drop other than what is prescribed for you by your eye care provider, for the intended problem, and for the intended time.
- Discard any unused eye drops. Once they are opened, if they are kept for a long time, the potency may decrease and the liquid environment may be a good place for bacteria to grow.
- A word about “redness relievers”: Eye care providers do not recommend taking over-the-counter redness reliever drops for long term use. In fact, if you use these drops chronically, they can cause chronic redness.
- Do not take medicated drops with your contract lenses in your eyes. Contact lenses can increase your risk for infection even if the drop you are taking is an antibiotic.
- Be cautious with taking even over-the-counter eye drops for moisture. Talk with your eye care provider to ensure what you are taking can be helpful. Be aware that there was an incident in 2023 in which over-the-counter eye drops caused infections in people’s eyes and in one case led to the death of a person.
Eye drops are very important therapies for various eye problems. However, be aware that you and your eye care provider should work together to ensure the drops you are taking are safe for your eyes and vision.
1. DiMatteo MR, Giordani PJ, Lepper HS, et al. Patient adherence and medical treatment outcomes: a meta-analysis. Med Care. 2002;40(9):794-811DiMatteo MR, Giordani PJ, Lepper HS, et al. Patient adherence and medical treatment outcomes: a meta-analysis. Med Care. 2002;40(9):794-811