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Eye Drops: Answers to All Your Top Questions

If you’re like many of our patients, using eye drops is something you do often. You might have a job that requires staring at a computer screen all day, so artificial tears might give your eyes some much-needed hydration. Or maybe you have recurring eye allergies and regularly use a drop for that. But even if you use eye drops every day, have you ever thought about eye drop instructions and how to use them for optimal eye care? 

On the flip side, if you’re about to use them for the first time (perhaps after LASIK surgery), you might have no idea how to put in eye drops properly and safely. Whichever camp you fall in, here are the answers to the most common questions we get about using this type of eye medicine.

1. How do I practice good hygiene when putting in eye drops?

As with most things related to your eyes (like putting in contacts), thoroughly wash your hands first and always avoid touching your eye directly. Once your hands are clean, gently pull down your bottom lid and make a well, then release the drop so it lands in there - keeping the dropper far enough away so it doesn’t actually make contact with your eye. It will make a small pool of liquid.

Then, plug the inside corner of your eye (near the nose), so the drops can drain down your septum. Put a little bit of pressure on the nasal side of your eyes, close your eyes and tilt your head toward the ground. This allows the drop to linger on the cornea, which is the only area that actually absorbs the drop. Putting your eye drops in like this way will maximize their benefit, and keep you from getting an eye infection due to poor hygiene.

2. How many drops do I need in each eye? 

Only one per eye! One drop is all that’s needed in order to be effective. If you’re prescribed four drops, check with your doctor, but this most likely means you need to put one drop in each eye four times per day. Sticking to only one drop in each eye will help your prescription last longer and save you some money, while still doing its job.

3. Can I do all my eye drops at once, or do I need to space them out?

Let’s say you have multiple eye drops you’ve been given by your doctor. Avoid putting them in your eye directly after one another. You don’t have to wait too long, but give yourself at least five minutes or so in between types of eye drops. This allows each type to be absorbed by your cornea before you add the next.

4. Do I need to shake my eye drops? 

This depends on what type of eye drops you’re using. Some medicated drops and post-surgery drops do require shaking, while others don’t. It will never hurt to shake your eye drops, so it’s a good rule of thumb to give every bottle a little shake before using them just to be on the safe side.

5. Can I use eye drops when I have contacts in? 

There are some eye drops that are safe to use when you have contacts in, but they’re the exception, not the rule. Unless your drops specifically state that they’re okay to use with contacts, remove your contacts before putting your eye drops in. Then, give your eyes a few minutes to absorb the drops before putting your contacts back in.

6. Should I buy preservative-free drops, if I have the choice? 

Yes! Preservative-free eye drops are generally best for your eyes, especially if you’re using the drops multiple times a day. Artificial tears, saline and over-the-counter drops are often offered in a preservative-free formulation, so we recommend choosing this when possible.

7. What if I taste my eye drops? 

While it might sound strange, some people actually do taste their eye drops. If you’re putting them in properly (see #1 above), the drops should drain down your septum. Because of this, some patients will actually experience a metallic taste after putting in drops (this is very common with steroid drops), and wonder if it’s okay. The answer is yes. This is totally normal, and is no cause for concern whatsoever.

So, does this answer all your eye drop questions? We hope so. If not, contact us to learn more or to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors today.