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Nursing Practice Keywords: Medicines administration/

Eye drops/Ointment
Practice educator
●This article has been double-blind
Medicines management peer reviewed

The administration of topical eye medications must be given the same priority
and attention to safety as drugs administered by the systemic route

How to administer eye


drops and ointments
Learning points... 5 practice
 hy eye drops and ointments are prescribed
W
points
Complications with the administration of these topical drugs 1 Eye drops
and ointments
are prescribed
Procedure for administration of eye drops and ointments
to treat acute
or long-term
Author Mary Shaw is senior lecturer at For patients to gain maximum thera- eye conditions
University of Manchester.
Abstract Shaw M (2014) How to
administer eye drops and ointments.
peutic effect, it is imperative that topical
eye medication is given the same priority
as medications that are administered sys-
2 Topical eye
medications
are subject to the
Nursing Times; 110: 40, 16-18. temically. The standards governing the same standards
Eye drops and eye ointments are the main administration of topical eye treatments as drugs given
treatment for most eye conditions and after are exactly the same as those covering by other routes
eye surgery or surgery to the periocular
structures. This article outlines the role
nurses play in ensuring the safe adminis-
other routes of administration; profes-
sional guidance on the administration of
medicines is available from both the
3 Interactions
can occur
between different
tration of topical eye medication and that Nursing and Midwifery Council (2010) and types of eye drops
patients adhere to their treatment regimens. the Royal College of Nursing (2013). and also with

T
Nurses, patients and carers need a good drugs delivered
he eyes are a vital part of the cen- knowledge and understanding of the ther- by other routes
tral nervous system. They convert
light into electrical impulses that
are transmitted to the occipital
apeutic effects and potential side-effects
of the topical drugs they administer. They
must also be familiar with potential drug
4 Systemic
absorption
of eye drops and
region of the brain, where they are inter- interactions that can occur between dif- ointments occurs
preted into meaningful images. The eyes ferent types of eye drops and ointment, via the conjunctival
enable us to navigate our environment, see and also between these and drugs delivered blood vessels or
fine detail, interpret colour, and maintain by any other route (Andrews, 2006) – as an the nasal mucosa
our health and safety while performing
everyday activities. However, little atten-
tion tends to be paid to the eyes or their sur-
example, timolol eye drops may interact
with insulin. 5 Eye drop
dispensing
aids can help
rounding structures until something goes Administering drops and ointment patients to
wrong with them; Marsden and Shaw (2003) Eye drops and ointment should be admin- self-medicate
highlighted health professionals’ lack of istered:
understanding of eye conditions. » At the correct time;
» In the correct strength;
Administration principles » Via the correct route;
Eye drops and ointment are prescribed to » To the right person;
treat acute or long-term eye conditions » Into the correct eye.
and/or the structures surrounding eyes. Some eye drops have a long-acting effect
They are the mainstay of treatment for eye on the pupil so it is vital they are instilled
disease as they are administered directly to into the correct eye. For example, atropine
their site of action and are, therefore, more 1% makes the eye light sensitive as the pupil
effective than medications administered will not contract in bright light. Adminis-
orally. They are also used to prevent or treat tration procedures are stated in Boxes 1 and 2.
infection or inflammatory conditions and, It is vital to establish the patient is not
in some instances, are used to relieve dis- allergic to any of the eye drops or ointment
comfort or to prevent damage, such as ingredients. Before instilling these, the eye
with dry-eye treatment (Marsden, 2007). and eyelids should be examined for signs

16 Nursing Times 01.10.14/ Vol 110 No 40 / www.nursingtimes.net


Nursing Visit our online medicines management

Times.net
section at bit.ly/NTMedsManagement

FIg 1. instillation of FIg 2. close tear duct FIg 3. eye drop


eye drops dispenser

of improvement or deterioration. In case of tion (www.glaucoma-association.com) has the same quantities. This may cause sensi-
the latter, medical help should be sought developed a compliance briefcase that tivity, resulting in sore eyes. If this occurs,
without delay. contains samples of most types of eye drop the proprietary item may be dispensed.
aids and provides these free of charge to It should be noted that generic bottles
Systemic absorption eye units in the UK. are not a uniform size and, as a result, the
Systemic absorption (SA) of eye drops and drop size itself may be larger. This can
ointments occurs via the conjunctival Generic eye drops result in the drug not lasting as long as the
blood vessels or the nasal mucosa. This is a Many eye drops are now off licence and a proprietary brand.
particular issue when drugs such as beta- generic product may be prescribed. Generic
blockers are prescribed (Marsden, 2007). preparations are generally cheaper than Safety considerations
For example, the beta-blocker timolol can proprietary products; they usually contain After administration of eye drops or oint-
cause bronchoconstriction, hypotension, the same ingredients but not necessarily in ments, patients must be advised against
bradycardia, nausea, diarrhoea, anxiety,
depression, hallucinations and fatigue.
Box 1. Procedure for instilling eye drops
These effects can be reduced through the
use of punctual occlusion (keeping the eye ● Position the patient comfortably, either sitting or lying down (semi-prone or
closed for a slow count of 60) after adminis- recumbent) with the head supported
tration. Alternatively, the patient can apply ● Wash hands before and after instilling eye drops to prevent cross infection and to
digital pressure to the tear drainage system remove drug residue from the hands
at the nasal corner of the closed eyelids (Fig ● Some local policies require that non-sterile gloves are used when instilling eye
2). These techniques minimise the amount drops or ointment and that an aseptic non-touch technique is used for first post-
of drug being taken into the nasolacrimal operative dressing and application of eye drops (Shaw et al, 2010)
system and into the systemic circulation. ● Cleaning the eye may be required, for example when there are crusty or purulent
In a theatre setting or when the eye is deposits on the eyelids. Clean the lids with non-woven or cotton wool swabs dipped
thought to have been lacerated or pene- in cooled boiled water or sterile saline solution (cotton wool is contraindicated when
trated, preservative-free eye drops must be there are sutures on the skin)
used to stop potentially sight-threatening ● Establish that you have the correct eye drops and that they have not expired
complications. The preservative will cause ● Gently agitate the bottle before use to make sure the drug is properly mixed
intraocular irritation and inflammation. ● Warn the patient the drops will sting transiently when administered (Andrews, 2006)
Eye ointment, if prescribed for the eye ● Instil the eye drop into the space (fornix) created by gently pulling down the lower
itself, should be applied into the lower lid (Fig 1)
fornix in a strip of approximately 5mm. If ● Ask the patient to look up – this helps to ensure the eye drop does not land directly
prescribed for treating the eyelids, care onto the sensitive cornea
should be taken to ensure the ointment is ● Once the eye drop is instilled, release the eyelid, using a tissue or swab to dab any
not be placed in the eye itself. excess from the cheek
● Avoid holding the tissue too close to the eye, to prevent the drug wicking away
Eye drop dispensing aids from the eye
Eye drop dispensing aids (Fig 3) can help ● Where multiple drops and/or ointment are prescribed for one or both eyes, the
patients to self-medicate and become inde- order of administration is important to ensure maximum therapeutic effect of each
pendent in managing their own condition, (Andrews, 2004) (see Table 1)
particularly when it is long term, such as ● Only one drop of each drug is required; more than this will create overflow onto the
open-angle glaucoma. The dispensing aid cheek. Ideally, five minutes should elapse between administration of a different eye
must match the patient’s needs and must drop to achieve maximum therapeutic effect (Andrews, 2006)
also fit the eye drop bottle. When patients Closed eye technique
are prescribed several different eye drops, Alster et al (2000) recommended a technique for patients who find it difficult to have
they will need an aid for each bottle. drops instilled directly into the eye, for example, children or older people:
Eye drop aids are available on prescrip- ● Ask the patient to lie flat or with their head tilted back
tion but some pharmaceutical companies ● Administer a drop of the medication onto the closed eyelid in the nasal corner
provide them free of charge for their prod- ● Ask the patient to open the eye and close it gently once the drug has entered it
ucts. The International Glaucoma Associa-

www.nursingtimes.net / Vol 110 No 40 / Nursing Times 01.10.14 17


Nursing Practice
Practice educator

Box 2. Procedure for Table 1. Order of eye drop/ointment


applying eye ointment administration
● Establish what the eye ointment has Order Drug
been prescribed to treat – it may be for
A Local anaesthetics Mydriatics and cycloplegics
structures other than the eye, such as
● Oxybuprocaine hydrochloride ● Atropine
an eyelid wound
● Proxymetacaine ● Cyclopentolate
● Wash hands before and after
Miotics ● Homatropine
applying ointment, to prevent cross
● Pilocarpine (eye drops) ● Tropicamide
infection and to remove drug residue
● Some local policies require that B Sympathomimetics Tear deficiency products
non-sterile gloves are used when ● Phenylepherine ● Acetylcysteine
instilling routine eye ointments and that ● Adrenaline ● Carbomers
an aseptic non-touch technique is used ● Apraclonidine ● Hydroxyethylcellulose
for the first post-operative dressing ● Brimonidine ● Hypromellose
and application of eye ointment (Shaw ● Polyvinyl alcohol
et al, 2010). ● Sodium chloride
● If prescribed for the eye itself, instil a
C Non-steroidal preparations Steroids
thin ribbon of the ointment into the
● Diclofenac ● Betamethasone
lower fornix then ask the patient to
● Ketorolac ● Dexamethasone
close the eye
● Fluorometholone
● The ointment may take a few moments
● Prednisolone
to melt and spread over the eye. Initially,
it may cause some blurring of the vision D Antibiotics Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
● Wipe the excess from the eyelids ● Cefuroxime ● Dorzolamide
● Normally, when a patient is ● Chloramphenicol (eye drops) Prostaglandin analogues
prescribed eye ointment, it is necessary ● Ciprofloxacin ● Bimatoprost
to clean the eyelids before the next ● Fusidic acid ● Latanoprost
treatment is applied ● Gentamicin ● Tafluprost
● If patients are applying their own ● Neomycin ● Travoprost
ointment but find the ribbon technique ● Penicillin
Ointments
awkward, suggest they squeeze a blob Antifungals ● Acyclovir
of the ointment into the lower fornix ● Miconazole ● Atropine
Anti-inflammatory ● Betamethasone
● Antazoline ● Chloramphenicol
driving or operating machinery until their ● Lodoxamide ● Chlortetracycline
vision has cleared and/or their eyes have ● Sodium cromoglicate ● Gentamicin
stopped stinging. ● Hydrocortisone
Beta-blockers
Correct medication storage is essential. ● Liquid paraffin
● Betaxolol
Some eye drops, such as chloramphenicol, ● Pilocarpine
● Carteolol
must be stored in a refrigerator before and
● Levobunolol
after opening while others are stored in the
● Metipranolol
refrigerator after opening only – it is impor-
● Timolol
tant to read the instructions carefully.
In hospital settings, eye drops should Source: Andrews (2004)
be discarded after seven days and replaced
if the treatment continues. In non-hospital ensure the drugs are used at the correct Administration. Manchester: Central Manchester FT.
Marsden J (2007) An Evidence Base for
settings, drop bottles should be replaced time and in the correct order (Table 1), with Ophthalmic Nursing Practice. Chichester: Wiley.
every 28 days (Andrews, 2006). an appropriate time lapse (ideally five min- Marsden J, Shaw M (2003) Correct administration
utes) between drugs when more than one is of topical eye treatment. Nursing Standard; 9: 17,
Documentation prescribed. One drop of each drug is suffi- 42-44.
Nursing and Midwifery Council (2010) Standards
The drugs administered should be docu- cient and action should be taken to ensure for Medicines Management. tinyurl.com/
mented accurately in patients’ notes in the risk of adverse systemic absorption is NMCMedsManagement
accordance with local and national guid- minimised. Drop-dispensing aids can be Royal College of Nursing ( 2013) Better Medicines
Management: Advice for Nursing Staff and Patients.
ance, and nurses should also evaluate the used to enable patients to become self-suffi- London: RCN. tinyurl.com/RCNBetterMedsManage
effect of treatment (RCN, 2013; NMC, 2010). cient with eye drop administration. NT Shaw ME et al (2010) Ophthalmic Nursing.
Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.
Conclusion References
Alster Y et al (2000) Intraocular penetration of
Nurses, patients and carers must have an vancomycin eye drops after application to the For more on this topic go online...
up-to-date knowledge and understanding medial canthus with closed lids. British Journal of Patient support to reduce risk of
of the therapeutic effects and potential Ophthalmology; 84: 3, 300-302.
diabetic retinopathy
Andrews S (2006) Pharmacology. In: Marsden J.
side-effects of the topical drugs they are Ophthalmic Care. Chichester: Whurr Publishers. B
 it.ly/NTRetinopathyRisks
using for eye conditions. They should also Andrews S (2004) Order of Eye Drop/Ointment

18 Nursing Times 01.10.14/ Vol 110 No 40 / www.nursingtimes.net