Eye Problems: Using Eyedrops and Eye Ointment
Many eye problems are treated with eyedrops or eye ointments, and sometimes with both.
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.
If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor.
How to use eyedrops or eye ointment
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.
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.
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 eyedrop in the pouch. Close the eye for 30 to 60 seconds to let the drop 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 your doctor told you to put more than 1 drop in your eye, wait at least 5 minutes between eyedrops. This helps prevent flushing away or diluting the first drop.
If you are using both eyedrops and eye ointment, put the eyedrop in at least 10 minutes before the ointment.
Using 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.
Using a mirror may make it easier to see what you are doing.
Current as of: October 12, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Christopher J. Rudnisky MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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