How to check if your eye drops are safe in the midst of a lot of product recalls
Amid a flurry of alarmist news about eye drops, people using over-the-counter versions would be wise to check if the product has been recalled before use, especially if it’s been sitting in the bathroom cabinet for a while.
To make sure your eye drop brand is safe, start by checking Food and Drug Administration’s list to see if it is one of them of drops recalled in recent weeks because of bacteria that can cause eye infections, resulting in possible vision loss or blindness.
The recalled eye drops, commonly referred to as artificial tears, are primarily over-the-counter lubricating drops used to relieve symptoms such as grittiness, dryness and itching, said Dr. Christoper Starr, spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), in an email to CBS MoneyWatch.
“Any lubricating drops that have not been recalled and are still available on pharmacy shelves should be perfectly safe to use and would be reasonable substitutes for the recalled drops,” said Starr, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City .
Still, it’s not a bad idea to search for any eye product on the FDA or the manufacturer’s website, given the problems with eye drops this year.
These began in early February with notification from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that they were investigating a cluster of infections related to artificial tears. More than 80 people were affected in 18 states, where four died and more than two dozen others lost their sight.
Since that outbreak, the FDA has become stricter in monitoring the safety of over-the-counter drops. Instead of being prompted by a rash of infectionswere spurred after the agency found they were “not being manufactured appropriately,” said Dr. Ashley Brissette, also a spokesperson for the AAO and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The 28 recalled eye drop products were all manufactured by a company called Kilitch Healthcare India, where FDA investigators found unsanitary conditions at the facility.
The flurry of recalls, whether for real safety concerns or for misleading product claims, “scares a lot of people, including the prescribed eye drops for conditions like glaucoma,” Brissette told CBS MoneyWatch. But she emphasized that no prescription drops have been recalled and encourages people to continue taking prescribed eye drops and call their eye doctor if they have concerns or questions. AAO also runs one website with information about eye health problems.
Check the expiry date
Product contamination can also occur outside of a manufacturing plant, which is why people should never use eye drops past their expiration date, according to Brissette.
“How the drops are used — the tip of the bottle to the face or the eyeball itself — that can cause cross-contamination,” she noted, advising people to wash their hands before using drops.
“I remind everyone to check the expiration dates on their eye drops as well. If they’re expired, throw them away as there’s a higher risk of contamination even with non-recalled, well-manufactured eye drops,” Starr said. “If anyone using these drops has eye discharge, redness, or pain (ie, signs of infection), they should see an eye doctor immediately.”
According to to CDC, eye infection symptoms may include:
- Yellow, green or clear discharge from the eye
- Eye pain or discomfort
- Redness of the eye or eyelid
- Feeling of something in the eye (foreign body sensation)
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Blurry vision