American Academy of Ophthalmology issues six tips to help patients overcome treatment challenges
SAN FRANCISCO — 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., In support of Glaucoma Awareness Month this January, the American Academy of Ophthalmology is providing patients six tips to help them overcome medication challenges:
- 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. The more you tell your doctor, the better he or she can help you find ways to customize your treatment plan to make it more manageable for your lifestyle.
- 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 at home.
- 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 to help you make your medication a part of your daily routine, or look for free smartphone apps and other tools.
- Perfect the "pocket." Giving yourself eye drops can be challenging. In fact, 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 all the steps to take to ensure eye drops get in your eye with this video: http://bit.ly/1xrHOCo.
- 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.
- 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 than marijuana. Marijuana can also affect memory, which could make it more difficult to remember your treatments. Learn the facts at http://bit.ly/1Dbfbvg.
"Many of my patients struggle with medication adherence, especially if they are managing other health issues at the same time," said Michele Lim, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology and glaucoma specialist. "But for every unique barrier to taking these medications there may be an equally unique solution. Don't be afraid to ask your ophthalmologist for help."
Certain factors put people at higher risk of developing glaucoma. These include age, family history of glaucoma, African-American and Hispanic-American ancestry, diabetes and past eye injuries. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that all people get an eye exam by age 40, especially those who have a higher risk of glaucoma. To learn more about glaucoma, visit the Academy's public education website EyeSmart.
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, headquartered in San Francisco, is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons, serving more than 32,000 members worldwide. The Academy's mission is to advance the lifelong learning and professional interests of ophthalmologists to ensure that the public can obtain the best possible eye care. For more information, visit www.aao.org.
The Academy is also a leading provider of eye care information to the public. The Academy's EyeSmart® program educates the public about the importance of eye health and empowers them to preserve healthy vision. EyeSmart provides the most trusted and medically accurate information about eye diseases, conditions and injuries. OjosSanos™ is the Spanish-language version of the program. Visit EyeSmart or OjosSanos to learn more.
 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18711461 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19038625 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21856009 https://www.aao.org/publications/eyenet/201004/glaucoma.cfm