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ISMP Medication Safety Alert


Caution to Patients with Poor Eyesight: How to Avoid a "Sticky" Situation

If you are a patient with poor eyesight, and take medications, you may need to take extra precautions in order to prevent dangerous medication errors. Reading the outside of the prescription container is the only safe way to ensure that you have selected the correct medication to use. When poor eyesight interferes, you may be at great risk for choosing the wrong medication, or worse choosing a non-medication to use in its' place. Recently, a woman in New Jersey placed super glue into one of her eyes instead of eye drops and glued her eyelids together. She could not see so she had to call the police to transport her to the hospital for treatment. Fortunately, she did not have permanent damage to her eyes. There are several other documented cases where this same situation has happened before. Any product that is packaged like eye drops, or ear drops could potentially lead to this type of error, particularly if stored in a bathroom or near medications.

We recommend that if you have poor eyesight, try to purchase non-medication products in different types of containers. For your safety, do not purchase super glue in a container that looks like eye or ear medication.. If you purchase super glue in a tube form, use caution, as it can be mistaken for a medical product in ointment form.

Pay close attention to where you keep these products. Store your medications in a separate location, away from other products. Keep similar looking products that are not medicine, but resemble medication packaging, in an a separate storage container to help you from accidentally confusing the two containers.

Don't hesitate to use a magnifying glass if you need help reading the label. Special magnifying products that attach to the outside of insulin vials and syringes are also commercially available. These can be helpful if you have trouble viewing the small print or markings on these products. Check with your local pharmacist if you feel you could benefit from these patient aids.

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