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Self-medication in ophthalmology - a northern Indian tertiary hospital experience

Rohini Gupta, Pavan Malhotra.

Background: The objective of the study was to identify practice and pattern of self-medication use among new patients attending ophthalmology OPD in a tertiary care hospital of north India. Self-medication practice is a common phenomenon all over the world but it has been reported to be very common in the developing countries especially in India. When consumers self-medicate without consulting the eye care giver, the issues of safety and irrational use of drugs arise.
Methods: A cross-sectional questionnaire based, observational study was planned among the patients reporting for the first time to Ophthalmology OPD in ASCOMS, Jammu. The patients enrolled in the study were randomly selected in the age group ≥18 years. Detailed history regarding self-medication prior to reporting to OPD was obtained. A questionnaire elucidating details of self-medication regarding history of ocular self-medication, type of ocular medication used, their reasons for resorting to ocular self-medication etc. was provided to them. All participants were informed about the scope and purpose of the study. An informed consent was obtained in every case prior to being given the questionnaire.
Results: A total of 296 responders were interviewed. Among these 122 (41.2%) admitted to have used eye medicines before coming to hospital. Redness in 38 (31.1%) cases was the most common complaint for which the patients opted self-medication. 49 (40.2%) patients did not know what drug they had used. Among the various drugs used, the commonest was the antibiotic eye medication in 33 (27%) patients followed by steroids 13 (10.7%). Among the responders 9 (7.3%) experienced side-effects after self-medication. Main factors influencing self-medication were advice from friends/relatives, living far from hospital and high cost of treatment at the hospital.
Conclusions: Self-medication with eye medicines is common among the population interviewed. Educating the public about the dangers of self-diagnosis and treatment, possibly leading to delay in detection of more serious underlying ailments is essential.

Key words: Eye medicines, Self-medication, Tertiary eye care centre

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