How do you put in eye drops?

DEAR DOCTOR K:

I have dry eye syndrome. My doctor prescribed artificial tears, but I can’t manage to get the drops into my eyes. Any advice?

DEAR READER:

Dry eye syndrome occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough tears. Tears moisten, protect and cleanse our eyes. Without enough tears, your eyes may burn, itch, or feel like there is something gritty in them. Dry eye syndrome can also increase your sensitivity to light and cause excessive tears.

Dry eye syndrome is often effectively treated with artificial tears. Available over the counter, they mimic the composition of natural tears. Of course, they work only if you can get them into your eyes. Like you, many people need to learn how to do it.

Following is the correct way to put in eye drops. (I’ve put photos of this process below.)

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Tilt your head back while standing, sitting or lying down. With your index finger, pull your lower eyelid gently downward. This causes your lower eyelid to form a pocket.
  3. Let the drop fall into the pocket without touching the bottle to your eye or eyelid. If the tip of the bottle touches your eye or eyelid, it can spread germs.
  4. Slowly let go of the lower lid.
  5. Close your eyes, but try not to blink, squint or shut them too tightly. Any of these could push the drops out of your eyes.
  6. Wipe unabsorbed drops and tears from the closed lids with a tissue.
  7. If you are putting in more than one drop, wait at least five minutes before putting in the next drop.

Here are a few additional suggestions I give to my patients who have trouble with eye drops:

  • If you have a strong blink reflex, lie flat on your back. Put a drop outside the lid of your closed eye and near your nose. Then open your eye, tilt your head slightly, and the drop will roll into the eye.
  • If your hands are shaky, try approaching your eye from the side. That way, you can rest your hand on your face to help steady your hand. You can also try putting a wrist weight of 1 to 2 pounds on the hand you’re using. The weight will reduce mild shaking.

If you still have trouble inserting the eye drops yourself, see if someone you live and/or work with can help. If you tilt your head back and pull down the lower lid to form the pouch, the other person should have no trouble aiming the drop of artificial tears right onto your eye. It’s usually easier for another person to aim accurately than for you to do so.

Finally, you can purchase an assistive device from a medical supply store to help you put in eye drops. One such device holds the eyelid open and helps direct the drops into the eye.

Most people can learn how to administer their eye drops successfully. You should be able to do so, too.

How to apply eye drops

AE0512-13

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Tilt your head back while standing, sitting, or lying down. Pull your lower lid away from the eye to form a pocket with your index finger (A).
  3. Let the drop fall into the pocket without touching the bottle to your eye or eyelid. Slowly let go of the lower lid.
  4. Close your eyes, but try not to blink, squint, or shut them too tightly, which could push the drops out of your eyes.
  5. Gently press on the inside corner of your eye where the lids meet the nose (B) for two to three minutes. (This step can be omitted when applying artificial tear drops.)
  6. Wipe unabsorbed drops and tears from the closed lids with a tissue (C).
  7. If you are putting in more than one drop or more than one type of eye drop, wait at least five minutes before putting in the next drop.

A few additional suggestions:

  • If you have a strong blink reflex, try lying flat on your back and putting a drop outside the lid of your closed eye and near your nose. Then open your eye and the drop will roll in.
  • If your hands are shaky, try approaching your eye from the side so you can rest your hand on your face to help steady your hand. You can also try putting a wrist weight of 1 to 2 pounds on the hand you’re using, which can reduce mild shaking.
  • If the dropper is attached directly to the bottle (as opposed to a separate dropper) and you have trouble holding on to it, wrap something (such as a paper towel) around it.
  • You can also purchase an assistive device (available at medical supply stores) to help you put in eye drops.