/publications/issue/2005/2005-05/2005-05-9515

A Pharmacist's Guide to OTC Therapy: Ophthalmic Products

Author: Yvette C. Terrie, RPh, BSPharm

Currently, a plethora of nonprescription ophthalmic products are available to treat a variety of disorders of the eye (Table). Pharmacists can be indispensable to patients by providing information concerning the appropriate selection of ophthalmic products accessible for self-treatment.

Self-treatable ophthalmic disorders occur primarily on the eyelids. Disorders of the eyelids and adjacent areas that are amenable to self-care include such conditions as contact dermatitis, allergic conjunctivitis, viral conjunctivitis, and blepharitis. Disorders of the eye should be carefully evaluated, however, to establish whether specialized medical care is necessary.

The first line of treatment of allergic conjunctivitis is to instill artificial tears as needed.1 The agents listed in the Table are indicated for treating the signs and symptoms of allergic conjunctivitis, such as burning, itching, watery discharge, redness, and irritation. Product selection is dependent upon the patient's symptoms. Prior to selection of any product, a patient's allergy history, concurrent medication profile, and medical history should be evaluated to screen for possible contraindications.

Because ophthalmic preparations frequently are used incorrectly, adequate counseling is always recommended. These products should be used in minor cases. Patients should be encouraged to seek medical care if the cause of the eye problem is unknown or if the condition is not improving, as well as for all serious conditions of the eye.

Ms. Terrie is a clinical pharmacy writer based in the northern Virginia area.