Pharmacists Are Not Doctors

In many under-developed and developing countries, it is quite a common practice that a patient who has some eye complaint does not go to a qualified ophthalmologist for proper eye examination. He instead goes to a pharmacist or rather a ‘medicine shop’ and asks for ‘some eye drop’ for his eye problem. The pharmacists quite often behave like doctors and provide the patients with treatment of common eye ailments.

While in majority of cases no complication occurs and patients may even improve symptomatically especially if it is a case of bacterial conjunctivitis or allergy, in some cases, the random treatment by the pharmacist can cause severe complications including ulceration of cornea and consequent permanent scarring.

Obviously, the pharmacist only guesses what could cause the eye complaint and prescribes accordingly based on his knowledge acquired from printed material which may come with the eye drop and other medications. Many of them prescribe treatment which is not required, for instance steroid eye drops which are contraindicated in many eye diseases and conditions. Use of steroid eye drop in such conditions can cause worsening of the disease and can have catastrophic effect on the eye.

Another aspect is that the patient does not get the treatment which is required allowing the disease to progress further.

The two main underlying factors for this problem are the tendency to find short-cut solutions and the inability to afford consultation with a qualified doctor/ophthalmologist. Whatever the reason, it is important to understand that self-medication or medication prescribed by unqualified persons could potentially harm your eyes, sometimes irreversibly.

Steroid eye drops like Fluorometholone, Dexamethasone and Prednisolone can worsen the ocular surface infections. If they are used indiscriminately for a prolonged period, for example in allergy, they may even cause side effects like glaucoma which may result into significant visual loss.

So remember, always consult a doctor or ophthalmologist when you have any eye complaints. Eye is a delicate organ with high-precision function. The treatment of all eye diseases should therefore also be very careful and specific.

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