Steroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs which are used for a variety of eye diseases. They produce relatively quicker action and better control of inflammation and prevent serious damage to fragile tissues of the eye. At the same time, steroids cause significant side effects and need to be used judiciously. Additionally, if the use of steroids is stopped suddenly especially after prolonged use, the inflammation could come back.

“Don’t taper too quickly. Wait until the inflammation is completely controlled before tapering. Tapering when the eye is just starting to improve or stabilize may prolong the inflammation and the therapy.” Says Dr. Sheppard. “Our longer-term goal is either to completely eliminate steroid therapy or to find the absolute minimum maintenance dose to avoid relapses,” he adds.

To answer a question “Do you have to taper off steroid eye drops?”, Dr. Michael Ham replies, “No, but with most conditions it is recommended and you do taper, otherwise you may get recurrence of the condition you were treating. In most cases, the patient feels well from the condition and they stop steroid drops before the condition is completely resolved and the condition slowly worsens again like it came back, but in reality it was never completely gone.”

If the steroid eye drop is used for a short period of 1-3 weeks, it can be stopped suddenly, but if it has been used for several weeks, it probably needs to be tapered off gradually. To make it simpler, it is always good to follow the advice of your ophthalmologist to decide when and how you can stop using the steroid eye drop.

[Image by Michael McCullough/ CC BY 2.0]