Glaucoma eye drops are medications used in the management of glaucoma, typically in the early stages. Eye drops may be a viable alternative to surgery in some cases and can help patients preserve their sight. They must be used as directed and taken regularly in order to be most effective. Not all patients are candidates for therapy with eye drops, and while discussing glaucoma treatments with their doctors, patients may want to ask about the risks and benefits of various options.
In patients with glaucoma, the pressure inside the eye rises, damaging the optic nerve. This leads to visual disturbances and can cause blindness. Eye drops are used to lower pressure inside the eye through a variety of means. Some common glaucoma eye drops include carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, beta-blockers, and prostaglandins, along with combination medications blending different drugs for patients who need to take more than one.
The primary concern with glaucoma eye drops is that in addition to being absorbed by the eye, they enter the blood stream through the mucus membranes lining the eye lid. These drugs can have an adverse effect on heart rate and breathing, and in patients with a history of cardiac or respiratory conditions, glaucoma eye drops may not be safe for use. Some drops are also linked with the development of asthma and other conditions.
Before prescribing eye drops, the doctor will evaluate the patient thoroughly to see if this treatment is appropriate. Doctors use a number of criteria when selecting medications and may change the prescription if a patient starts experiencing adverse side effects. People taking drops for glaucoma must take them regularly, even when they are not experiencing symptoms, as the goal is to lower the pressure in the eye and keep it down to prevent injuries. Patients who do not apply their glaucoma eye drops regularly can start to develop poorly-managed glaucoma and accompanying vision problems.
To take glaucoma eye drops, patients must wash their hands, tilt their heads back, and pull the lower eyelid down to create a pocket, depositing the drop into the pocket. The eye should be closed and held shut for around a minute to allow the drop to fully absorb. The process can be repeated if necessary for additional eye drops. Patients with shaky hands who have trouble applying the drops may need to ask for assistance from a friend or family member.