The International Glaucoma Association (IGA) advises Muslim glaucoma patients not to stop taking eye drop medication during Ramadan (Tuesday 15 May to Thursday 14 June) as stopping drops even for a short period of time can cause permanent loss of vision.
Hospital reports and calls to the IGA helpline have indicated that some Muslims cease using their eye drops during Ramadan, believing that using the eye drops will break their fast. Even more worrying is that many of these patients then stop using the drops completely when they don’t perceive any change to their sight. This will not be apparent to the individual until significant sight loss has occurred.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerve is damaged, usually by excessive pressure within the eye. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to serious loss of vision, with up to 40 percent of sight being permanently lost before the effects are noticed by the individual. Fortunately, glaucoma is the most common cause of preventable blindness and for the majority of glaucoma patients, daily eye drops are a simple solution to control their condition and save their sight.
Subhash Suthar, IGA Development Manager, comments: “We want to reassure the Muslim community that drops can be taken before dawn and after sunset (known as Suhoor and Iftar), when food and drink can be consumed. We also suggest that patients close the tear duct when taking eye drops (known as punctual occlusion) as this means that fluid stays in the eye and does not drain into the throat and so cannot be tasted. This is achieved by putting finger pressure at the corner of the eye next to the nose (punctual occlusion) immediately after instilling drops. It is distressing when patients realise through a follow-up appointment at their ophthalmologist or optometrist that their vision has been damaged through stopping drops. ”
The IGA is working with the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to raise awareness of this issue.
MCB’s Deputy Secretary-General Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, has confirmed that all Islamic Schools Of Thought agree that taking eye drops does not invalidate the fast unless the eye drops reach the throat, which is unlikely. More so, Islam advocates that people take care of their bodies.
IGA Advice for eye drops during Ramadan:
- Do not stop eye drops during Ramadan- all Schools of Thought support this
- If you are still doubtful, use morning drops at Suhoor and evening drops at Iftar
- Try practicing punctal occlusion following instillation of drops
As National Glaucoma Awareness Week approaches (12-18 June) the IGA also advises anyone planning a summer holiday to make sure they take their eye drops with them, as some patients either forget to take their drops with them, or think it will be fine to stop taking them while away, which could lead to serious sight loss.
The IGA works with all professionals involved in glaucoma management to educate about the need for good eye drop use and compliance. It helps to set up local patient support groups within hospitals and has some simple tips and films available on our website.
For more information on the IGA call 01233 64 81 64 or log onto