*File photo
*File photo

When it comes to vision health, eye drops play a huge role in a variety of conditions from serious infections to simple dry or irritated eyes.

One of the most common uses for drops is to help relieve the symptoms of eye allergies, which include itching, tearing, redness, watery discharge and stinging. 

Artificial tears, which do not contain medication, and eye drops containing medications such as antihistamines, decongestants and prescription corticosteroids may all be used for eye allergies.

Conjunctivitis or pink eye is an inflammation or infection causing itching, burning, redness and swelling. 

Because pink eye can be contagious, early diagnosis and treatment is important to help limit its spread. Conjunctivitis can be caused by a bacterial or viral infection, environmental irritants and allergies or even by eye drops that have become contaminated. 

Treatments like antibiotic or anti-allergy eye drops may help ease the discomfort of pink eye. OTC antibiotic drops like Polysporin can be effective if started when symptoms first occur. 

However, if symptoms are persistent or there is pain and swelling, visit your doctor for an examination. If you wear contact lenses, remember to keep them out while using the drops to prevent re-infection.

Dry eye or low tear production is common in older people and contact lens wearers, and may cause a scratchy feeling when blinking as well as burning, discharge, eyelid heaviness and vision changes. 

Artificial tears, both OTC and prescription, are commonly used to lubricate dry eyes. There are many OTC drops available like Genteal, Refresh and Clear Eyes. 

Some are even available in preservative-free single use sachets. If you are using drops to rewet your lenses, make sure to choose eye drops specifically intended for contacts as other drops could damage the lenses.

Keratitis is inflammation of the cornea in which permanent scarring can occur. Keratitis is a serious problem with major potential for resulting in permanent loss of vision 

Blurry or hazy vision is a frequent complaint of patients with keratitis. When inflammation affects the front surface of the cornea, it usually is associated with sharp pain and light sensitivity, sometimes along with redness and tearing. Inflammation of deeper levels of the cornea may present with only blurring, but may equally cause permanent vision loss.

While there are many triggers of corneal inflammation, the most frequent is infection, notably the herpes virus. 

Autoimmune diseases can also cause inflammation. Additionally, problems such as dry eye and abnormal eyelid function can lead to keratitis by making the cornea more susceptible to infection or other types of inflammation. Contact lens abuse and poor lens hygiene are also common causes of corneal inflammation via secondary infection.

Treatment for corneal infections depends on the cause and should be started as soon as possible to prevent scarring of the cornea. If the exact cause is not known, patients may be given antibiotic drops that work against many kinds of bacteria. 

Once the exact cause is known, drops that treat bacteria, herpes, other viruses or a fungus are prescribed. Corticosteroid eye drops may be used to reduce swelling and inflammation in certain conditions.

Tips for using eye drops

Use eye drops only as directed by your doctor, pharmacist or the label on the bottle.

• Make sure the drops are sterile when used and the seal on the bottle is intact.

• Don’t let the applicator touch your eye surface or anything else.

• Don’t share your drops with anyone else or use someone else’s drops.

Discard the drops according to the manufacturer’s recommendation, usually 4 weeks after opening the product, not the expiration date stamped on the bottle.

Finally, take care of your eyes with regular check-ups and always consult your doctor before using any products in your

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and has been practising for over 20 years. She is a registered pharmacist with the Bermuda Pharmacy Council and is a member of the Bermuda Pharmaceutical Association. For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm.