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Tips for overcoming eye-drop challenges

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States. When glaucoma is treated in its early stages, vision loss can be prevented. Yet, studies show that more than half of glaucoma patients do not adhere to their prescribed treatment plans due to factors including difficulty in applying eye drops, lack of medication education and forgetfulness.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends to patients six tips to help them overcome medication challenges:

1. Be honest with your ophthalmologist about your medication difficulties Missed a dose? It may not seem to matter much, but research shows that skipping doses can cause your glaucoma to become more severe. Be candid with your ophthalmologist about any problems you face in taking your medicine regularly, and ask about the best way to make up for a missed dose.

2. Ask for help from health professionals and loved ones It can be difficult to keep track of which meds to take and when. Talk with your ophthalmologist or pharmacist about your medications, their impact and possible side effects. Also, use the buddy system and tell your friends, family and caregivers about your condition and treatments. Consider taking a loved one or caregiver with you to your ophthalmology appointments, so they can help you follow your treatment plan when you’re at home. They may also be able to help you apply your eye drops.

3. Use memory aids The most common reason for not taking eye drops is forgetfulness. Try simple memory aids like linking your eye drop schedule to other things you do routinely. For example, put your eye drop bottle next to your toothbrush or your pill box if you take other medications. Try using physical reminders such as marking off a calendar when you use your drops, or moving your eye drop bottle from one place to another after you’ve applied your drops. Also, take advantage of today’s technology and set an alarm on your phone, or look for free smartphone apps and other tools.

4. Perfect the “pocket” Research has shown that nearly 30 percent of people taking glaucoma medication are not properly applying their eye drops. This should involve gently pulling and pinching the lower lid to make a pocket to catch your drops. Once the drops are in, close your eyes (do not blink) and apply pressure to the point where the lids meet the nose for two to three minutes. Learn more with the video at bit.ly/1xrHOCo.

5. Know your Medicare part D coverage Some people find they run out of their glaucoma eye drops early – especially when they are still learning how to apply the drops properly. For those whose glaucoma eye drops are covered through Medicare part D, early refills are possible once 70 percent of the predicted time of use has gone by. That means that a one month supply can be refilled after 21 days at both retail and mail-in pharmacies.

6. Don’t use pot as a glaucoma treatment Don’t fall for rumors that medical marijuana can replace glaucoma medications. Prescription medicated drops are much more effective at treating the condition and have fewer risks. Marijuana can also affect memory, which could make it more difficult to remember your treatments.

Learn more about glaucoma at geteyesmart.org.