Judith Whitehead – Contributing Writer
Working in the field of ophthalmology, we see many surprising things that our patients do, including sharing eye drops with family members or friends.
Many health conditions and infections present themselves through eye symptoms. A red eye can be the response to infection, irritations and systemic diseases, and eye drops prescribed are disease specific.
Eye drops are prescribed for a specific condition and can't and should not be shared. In fact, an eye condition may be worsened by using the wrong drops.
Each eye must be examined by a professional to determine which drop will help remedy the problem. Eye conditions such as iritis, or inflammation inside the eye, may be an indication of a larger problem such as an autoimmune disease. Symptoms of light sensitivity can be inflammation inside the eye or an eye surface problem. Treatments are very different.
An eye doctor must determine the problem; using someone else's drops that were prescribed for them can make matters even worse.
A viral condition sometimes does not respond to eye drops. Over-the-counter remedies may be just as good.
Infections may benefit from a prescribed drop; if a bottle of eye drops is shared, the bottle may have been contaminated by the person previously using it.
If an eye dropper touches the surface of an eye or lashes, it becomes contaminated.
Your friend may be sharing their eye problem with you. Many people, for instance, are allergic to sulfa-based drops, which can make eye problems worse. Many drops dilate the eye to relax the iris and prevent spasm while helping the eye heal; dilating drops are condition specific and will blur vision in the healing process.
Do yourself a favor. Spend the extra money and effort and seek professional help before sharing eye drops. In the long run, you will be safer and heal more quickly if using the correct Rx.
Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.