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You return home from the eye doctor with specific instructions about how often to use your prescription eye drops and some guidelines to help you care for your eyes. The first day, you comply 100 percent and follow your ophthalmologist’s directions to the letter. On day two, you’re not quite as precise with your home treatments. By the end of the week, you’re missing doses and going outside without a protective eye patch.

You call your doctor’s office to complain that the infection doesn’t seem to be clearing up. The receptionist asks if you have been following the prescribed eye care plan. You swallow and say, “No, but …,” ready to give an excuse as to why you didn’t follow instructions. Sound familiar? Noncompliance is a universal problem preventing eye care patients from properly treating and overcoming common eye conditions.

The Dangers of Noncompliance

Even the most routine eye care regimens, such as inserting a contact lens, can harm your eyes and vision health when not followed as directed. Improper handling, poor hygiene, inappropriate use of solution, abrupt change of care products, sleeping with your lenses and failing to replace them can cause infections and negatively affect your eyesight.

So if failure to comply with something as routine as proper contact lens use can affect your eyes, you should rightfully assume that not complying with more serious procedures will have drastic effects. And yet despite that, noncompliance is an overwhelmingly common problem with eye care patients. Research from the Glaucoma Research Foundation revealed that an estimated 25 percent of patients with glaucoma fail to take their medications! Sadly, not taking medication has been identified as one of the leading reasons glaucoma patients suffer from blindness.

Not only does medication or treatment noncompliance affect your vision health, it also undermines the treatment your eye doctor is trying to provide. Taking too much or too little medication can prevent your ophthalmologist from being able to adequately monitor the progress and effectiveness of your treatment. When you fail to comply with your prescribed treatment, you are basically taking your health into your own hands.

Causes of Noncompliance

Why don’t eye care patients comply? There are many reasons. Misinformation, confusion and overconfidence in their ability to handle their eye care procedures are all influencing patient’s noncompliance. Some patients want to comply but have misplaced their instructions and choose to “wing” it. Others assume following the prescribed plan for a few days will be just as effective as following it for a week.

Take note: If your eye care professional gave you clear instructions, you need to follow them exactly. It is not the intention of any doctor to ask you to perform meaningless procedures or be too rigid. Whatever instructions you were given are provided so that you benefit from the maximum effectiveness of the treatment and are able to protect and preserve the health of your eyes.

A Simple Solution

Here’s what you can do to help yourself follow instructions and stop undermining your eye doctor:

  • Ask questions. If you are unsure of what to do or why you should do it, ask your doctor to explain the procedure. Don’t assume anything when it comes to your health.
  • Don’t count on your memory. Store instruction sheets in a place where you can easily find them, such as your medicine cabinet. If your doctor gives you additional information, ask for it in writing or take notes at your appointment.
  • Bring company. Instead of trusting yourself to remember all the details, bring a loved one with you to appointments who can take notes or ask questions as needed.
  • Request a demonstration. If you are uncertain about proper techniques, such as the right way to administer eye drops, ask your doctor or a technician to show you how to do this correctly.
  • Contact your eye care clinic. If you misplace your instructions or forget some detail about your eye care regimen, call in to ask questions.
    Following these simple steps can prevent you from causing further damage to your eyes and ensure that your eye care treatments actually work.

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