By Dr S.S. Gill
Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about the dangers of STEROID EYE DROPS bought “over-the-counter” (OTC).
Sometime ago, I had a phone call from a pharmacist friend of mine who sounded distressed because a customer of his who had purchased eye drops from his pharmacy was complaining that it had made him lose his eyesight! The customer was essentially blaming the pharmacist friend for the visual loss.
Ask any pharmacist about how Malaysians tend to self-medicate and they will have many stories to share. It is common for people to purchase eye drops alongside their regular monthly vitamins.
In Malaysia, there are no proper regulatory laws controlling the purchase of prescription eye drops like in the EU or USA where one would require a doctor’s prescription before medication can be dispensed.
Indiscriminate unsupervised usage of steroid eye drops that are available so easily in Malaysia can be detrimental to eye health. Here are some things to note.
GLAUCOMA AND CATARACT FORMATION
Some eye drops that contain steroids may make a person feel comfortable in the eyes but when used long term can cause cataract formation and also cause a potentially blinding condition called glaucoma. All such eye drops must only be instilled under supervision by a medical eye professional.
MASKING OF SERIOUS EYE INFECTIONS
Steroid eye drops may get the red out of sore eyes which are infected but this is because of their anti-inflammatory effect. The eye infection will continue to thrive without the person realising it. Infections affecting the cornea have often resulted in serious corneal ulcers that can potentially blind a person.
Overall, steroid eye drops reduce the resistance of the eye to bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Hence, it is very important not to use steroid eye drops without supervision from an eye professional.
TAKE HOME POINTS
Avoid purchase of un-prescribed OTC eye drops as they may cause more harm than you may realise. Always seek professional help taking note that most eye drops require proper medical supervision when you are on them. Do not continue using un-prescribed eye drops indefinitely without proper eye monitoring.