OTC eye drops causing vision loss in many, doctors warn | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis

Indiscriminate use of eye drops bought over the counter (OTC), without a doctor’s prescription, almost cost an 18-year-old his vision. The teenager (name withheld on request), who is to appear for his HSC exams, developed cataract and near blindness. Doctor say the trend of relying on chemists for eye drops is becoming a growing problem.

Dr Jayashree Thakore, eye surgeon at Lotus Eye Hospital, Juhu said, “The boy came to us with vision loss. Upon investigation, we found that he had cataract.”While noting the boy’s

history, Dr Thakore found out that he was troubled by itchiness and relied on OTC steroid eye drops for over a year. “The boy told me that he was using this steroid eye drop without any doctor’s prescription just for its cooling effect. He developed cataract and wasn’t able to study. We operated on him and now he is doing fine. He will be appearing for his board exams,” said Dr Thakore.

Ophthalmologists say this is not a one-off case. Increasingly, they have been getting cases of eye complications due to prolonged use of OTC eye drops. “We see at least one such case per week. Even in the conjunctivitis epidemic, we have seen patients buying eye drops suggested by chemists in good faith and ending up with complications. Many times, the eye drops are a mixture of steroids and antibiotics. This is leading to people developing bacterial resistance.

Another reason behind OTC purchase of eye drops is people spending more time staring at their high-end phones and laptops without blinking. The common symptoms that signal to you to visit an ophthalmologist are eyes turning red and watering.

Dr Nisheeta Agarwala, consulting ophthalmologist at P D Hinduja hospital, said, “The blink rate among users of computer screen/high-end phones is much poorer than normal. When you don’t blink a lot, tears become stagnant and eyes feel dry. The tear quality changes and a vicious circle of tear dysfunction sets in. This problem is more acute in

Dr Agarwala, who commonly sees this problem in young professionals, added that the degree of problem varies from person to person. “If we take 100 people using

for long hours, everyone will have the problem but few complain. Redness of eyes should be taken seriously and doctors’ advice should be taken. OTC eye drops give instant relief but they have side effects; the right dosage also matters. Misuse of eye drops can lead to reversible or irreversible vision loss,” said Dr Agarwala.

Agreeing to Dr Agarwal, Dr Kavita Rao, eye surgeon at Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, said,”It is commonly observed that even for conjunctivitis, people tend to self-medicate and risk their eyesight. Eyes are very delicate organs and self-medication should be avoided.”
For a person constantly concentrating on a computer or phone screen, the blink rate reduces 3-4 times. In such a case, take a break every 20 minutes and look at things 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

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