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  • Eye Problems: Using Eyedrops and Eye Ointment

Eye Problems: Using Eyedrops and Eye Ointment

Introduction

Many eye problems are treated with eyedrops or eye ointments, and sometimes with both.

Key points

Even though drops and ointments are widely used, many people don't know the best way to put them in. But with a little preparation, you can comfortably and easily put drops or ointment in your eyes or someone else's.

  • Eyedrops and eye ointments can deliver medicine directly to your eyes, keep your eyes moist, and help with redness, itching, and watering.
  • It is important to be sure the dropper or tube is clean. Do not let it touch the eye, eyelid, lashes, or any surface. This will keep it free from bacteria.
  • Do not use more drops or ointment than directed.
 

Take these safety precautions when you use eyedrops or eye ointments:

  • Wash your hands well before and after you insert the drops or ointment. If you have disposable medical gloves, wear them when you put eyedrops or eye ointments into someone else's eyes. Even if you wore gloves, wash your hands afterward.
  • Be sure the dropper or tube is clean and does not touch the eye, eyelid, lashes, or any surface. This is to keep it free from bacteria. Eyedrops or ointments that get bacteria in them can easily spread the bacteria to the eye and cause an infection.
  • If the dropper is separate from the bottle and touches the eye, do not put the dropper back in the bottle. Buy a new dropper at a drugstore.
  • Do not use anyone else's drops or ointment.
  • If you have an eye infection, do not wear contact lenses while you are using eyedrops or eye ointments unless your doctor has told you it is okay.

Sometimes eyedrops and eye ointments sting when you first put them in. But the stinging should go away after a few moments. When you put the medicine in your eye, you may also get a taste from it in your mouth. Or you may feel the drops in your nose, and some of the medicine may come out through your nose. These things are normal and will go away.

Eyedrops and eye ointments containing medicine can have side effects. Use them exactly as directed. Make sure you understand the directions, and do not use the drops or ointment longer or in larger amounts than your doctor tells you to. This can hurt your eyes.

If your doctor prescribed one type of eyedrop or eye ointment to treat one problem, do not use the same medicine to treat a different problem.

Between doses, store the drops or ointment as directed. This may mean keeping them in the refrigerator.

Do not save leftover drops or ointment.

Test Your Knowledge

I should touch the eyedropper or ointment tube onto the eye or eyelid to make sure that the drops or ointment will go into the eye.

  • True
    This answer is incorrect.

    It is important to be sure the dropper or tube is clean and does not touch the eye, eyelid, lashes, or any surface to keep it free from bacteria. If the dropper is separate and touches the eye, do not put the dropper back in the bottle. Buy a new dropper at a drugstore.

  • False
    This answer is correct.

    It is important to be sure the dropper or tube is clean and does not touch the eye, eyelid, lashes, or any surface to keep it free from bacteria. If the dropper is separate and touches the eye, do not put the dropper back in the bottle. Buy a new dropper at a drugstore.

  •  

Continue to Why?

 

Eyedrops or eye ointments may be used to:

  • Deliver medicine directly to your eyes.
  • Keep your eyes moist and lubricated.
  • Help with redness, itching, and watering.

Some common problems treated with eyedrops or eye ointments include:

  • Dry eyes. Over-the-counter artificial tears can help to treat dry eyes.
  • Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). Your doctor may prescribe eyedrops or ointment to treat this problem.
  • Allergies. Eyedrops that have an antihistamine, an anti-inflammatory, or a decongestant can be used to treat allergies. These medicines may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems. Before you use these medicines, check the label.
  • Glaucoma. Treatment for this vision problem may include eyedrops that lower the pressure inside the eye.
  • Iritis. This inflammation of the colored part of the eye is treated with medicine given as eyedrops.

Test Your Knowledge

Eyedrops or eye ointments can be used to treat many problems with the eyes, including allergies, dry eyes, iritis, glaucoma, and pinkeye (conjunctivitis).

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Eyedrops or eye ointment can deliver medicine directly to your eyes, keep your eyes moist and lubricated, and reduce or relieve redness, itching, and watering.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Eyedrops or eye ointment can deliver medicine directly to your eyes, keep your eyes moist and lubricated, and reduce or relieve redness, itching, and watering.

  •  

Continue to How?

 

Eyedrops

To use eyedrops, follow these tips:

  • For older children and adults: While tilting your head back, pull the lower eyelid down with one or two fingers to create a small pouch. Gently squeeze the dropper to put 1 to 2 eyedrops (or the number of drops your doctor told you) in the pouch. Close the eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drops absorb.
  • For younger children: Have the child lie down with the eyes closed. Place an eyedrop in the inner corner of the closed eye. When the eye opens, the drop will run in.
  • If you are putting more than 1 drop in your eye, wait at least 5 minutes between eyedrops. This helps prevent flushing away or diluting the first drop.

See a picture of how to use eyedrops.

If you are using both eyedrops and eye ointment, put the eyedrop in at least 10 minutes before the ointment.

Eye ointment

The method for inserting eye ointment is slightly different than for inserting eyedrops. When using eye ointments, follow these tips:

  • For older children and adults: Pull the lower eyelid down with one or two fingers to create a pouch. Put a thin line of ointment in the pouch. Close the eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the ointment absorb.
  • For younger children, have the child lie down with eyes closed. Pull the lower eyelid out to create a pouch. Put a thin line of ointment in the pouch. With the child's eyes closed, ask the child to move his or her eyeball from side to side to move the ointment around the eye.
  • Eye ointment can cause some temporary blurring of vision.

See a picture of how to use eye ointment.

Using a mirror may make it easier to see what you are doing.

Test Your Knowledge

When I use an eye ointment, I may get some temporary blurring of vision.

  • True
    This answer is correct.

    Eye ointment can cause some temporary blurring of vision.

  • False
    This answer is incorrect.

    Eye ointment can cause some temporary blurring of vision.

  •  

Continue to Where?

 

For more information about using eyedrops or eye ointment, talk to:

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins where you have questions.

Return to topic:

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised January 25, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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