Your eye doctor diagnoses you with open-angle glaucoma, the most common kind, in which fluid buildup increases intraocular pressure. (You’ll find information on Horizon Eye Care’s glaucoma page.) You’re given drops to put in each eye as the first line of defense, as few as one drop per day or as many as five different kinds.
Simple, right? Well, maybe – if you have a steady hand, clear vision and no problem squeezing a single drop from a bottle two inches high. But glaucoma frequently affects people over 50, when hands may shake and vision may blur. That complicates the use of medicine essential to preventing vision loss, if you’re avoiding surgery. Luckily, patients can get assistance with this daily regimen.
The Daily Drops Regimen
Everybody who takes drops should be wise enough to wash hands beforehand, take out contact lenses, shake the bottle vigorously and keep the tip from touching eyes or hands to avoid bacteria.
Every glaucoma patient should tip the head back slightly, pull down the lower eyelid to create a pocket, squeeze in a single drop, close the eye without blinking and apply pressure for a minute to tear ducts where the eyelids meet the nose. (Extra drops won’t hurt you but aren’t more effective, and insurance companies balk when you run out of medicine too quickly.)
If you have trouble doing this standing up, lie down on a flat surface and lean your head back. As you squeeze the bottle with a thumb and two fingers, place the other two fingers against your nose for stability. But if even that becomes difficult, devices can help.
A Cress Dropper sits astride the nose, with a tube on one side directing the drop where it needs to go. A mirror hat (especially useful when reclining) gives a close-up view of the eye. An E-Z Drops mirror, a disposable piece of shiny adhesive attached to the bottle, lets you put drops in one eye while looking at a reflection with the other.
You can even buy a battery-operated dropper that fits between the upper and lower eyelid; a button dispenses the required amount. But the Simply Touch applicator may be easiest to use: Drops adhere to this wand, and you carry it to a mirror where you can see clearly, touching the wand to the inside of the lower eyelid.
Cautions And Considerations
Drops vary from patient to patient. Some have beta-blockers that shouldn’t be given to people with a low heart rate or low blood pressure, while others contain sulfa. If drops can’t be given at all because of other health conditions, a surgeon may insert a stent to carry off excess fluid, relieving the buildup of pressure that kills cells along the optic nerve.
But drops do work for 80 to 85 percent of patients with open-angle glaucoma, if they stick with a daily maintenance program. There’s no way for a patient to measure pressure, and the disease has no obvious symptoms until it’s advanced. So only regular eye exams that monitor changes can reveal whether those drops are doing their job.