Why Can I Taste My Eye Drops?

By August 6, 2019 No Comments
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One of my patients this morning was complaining about her glaucoma treatment eye drops. They didn’t sting or make her eyes red. They didn’t blur her vision or make her sensitive to lights. “THEY TASTE BAD!” she told me.

It’s actually not unusual to have people taste their eye drops, though most don’t complain of it. It occurred to me that most people probably don’t know why they can taste eye drops. So, here’s the reason.

Everyone has a small drain in the corner of each eyelid by the side of your nose. That drains the tears down into your nose. That’s why your nose runs whenever you cry!

People often complain about their tears running down their cheek all day long and are led to believe that it’s from a “Dry Eye Problem”. How that would make sense to have a “dry eye” watering all the time, is beyond me. But I hear people say this all the time. The more common problem for your tears running down your cheeks all day is that the drain is blocked, and your tears have nowhere else to go but down your cheeks. This can be from mucus in your nose blocking the drain. It’s very common in allergy season when people are getting stuffy nose problems to have the stuffiness block the tear drainage channel. Some nasal sprays used to clear your nose can also open the tear drain again so your eyes don’t run all the time.

Once you understand the plumbing route for your tears, it’s easy to see why you can taste your eye drops. If you put a large drop of medication on your eye, some of it soaks into your eye as it should. The rest of it runs down the drainage channel into your nose. You either taste it when it’s in your nose or if you tilt your head it will run back into your throat where you can taste it. That’s the answer to her question about why she tastes the eye drops. The real answer she wanted, though, was how to stop tasting it! “THEY TASTE BAD!”

The answer here is easy too. If you feel along the side of your nose, by the corner of your eye, you will feel a depression, or groove, running down the side of your nose. That’s the path the tear drain goes through to get from your eyelid into your nose. If you press against your nose right there, you will close the drain. It’s like pinching the bridge of your nose. So, to stop tasting your eye drops, you just press there as you put the drop in your eye. Hold the pressure on the side of your nose for 30 seconds as you close your eye and let the medication soak into your eye where it belongs. Then release the pressure, wipe your eye with a tissue, and none of the medication will go into your nose and throat where you can taste it!

Learning to do this when you put in your eye drops can be important for another reason, too. Some medications that we use to treat your eye can have side effects on your heart, lungs, blood pressure, and even your mood, if too much of the medicine gets into your nose or throat. For most people the amount of medicine in an eye drop is insignificant when spread in your whole body but some people can be sensitive to even small amounts of these medications, so keeping them in your eye and out of your nose and throat is just smart.

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