Eye ointment

Eye ointments are medicines in an ointment form. They are used when the medicine needs to work directly in your eye to relieve or treat eye conditions.

Eye ointments are used to treat conditions such as dry eyes or eye infections (such as conjunctivitis). Ointments are thicker than drops and that means they can stay in your eye longer.

On this page, you can find the following information:

Before using an eye ointment

  • Contact lens: If you normally wear contact lenses, don't wear them until you have finished the duration of treatment. The eye ointment could damage your lenses. 
  • Using more than one eye medicine: If you are using both drops and eye ointment in the same eye, always use the drops first, then wait 5 minutes before applying the ointment. If you need to use 2 eye ointments, wait about half an hour before you apply the second eye ointment. This allows enough time for the first eye ointment to be absorbed. 
  • Avoid contamination: Take care not to touch your eyelids, fingers or any other surfaces with the tip of the ointment tube. To keep the ointment free from germs, keep the lid of the tube tightly closed when not in use.
  • Sticky eyes: Your eyelashes and eyelids may get sticky when using eye ointment. To remove the stickiness, gently clean both with a warm, wet washcloth (flannel) or compress after you use the ointment. If there is dried ointment left on your lashes or lids, you can also wash the area with a little watered-down baby shampoo, then rinse.
  • Blurry vision: Your vision will be blurred for about 5–10 minutes after each time you use the ointment. Do NOT drive or operate machinery until you can see clearly again.

How to apply an eye ointment

Eye ointments are not the easiest of medicines to use. To get the most benefit, you need to use the correct technique. This makes sure you get the right amount of medicine into your eye. Below is a technique to help with applying your eye ointment. Ask your healthcare provider to show you if you need help.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Remove the cap from the tube.
  • Tilt your head back a little. Using one finger or your knuckle, pull the lower lid of your eye down to form a pocket.
  • With your other hand, hold the tube upside down near to your eye. Avoid touching the tip of the tube against your eye.
  • Squeeze the tube so a thin line of ointment is applied in the pocket of your lower eyelid.
  • Looking in the mirror may help.
  • Close your eye and then blink a few times to spread the ointment around the inside of your eye.
  • Your vision will be blurry for a few minutes. Try not to rub your eyes.
  • Repeat in your other eye (if both eyes are affected).
  • Replace the cap on the tube.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

If you can’t put the ointment in yourself, ask a family/whānau member or friend to help you. Let your doctor know if it is too difficult.

Using eye ointment in babies and children

Applying eye ointment in babies and children can be tricky. You may need help from another adult when using the eye ointment. The following steps are a guide:

  • Reassure your child that this may feel a bit uncomfortable but it won't hurt. Some ointment may sting at first, but this passes quickly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • You can wrap babies and small children up in a blanket to keep them still.
  • It's best if your child is lying down.
  • Remove the cap from the tube.
  • Older children: Gently lower the bottom eye lid to create a pocket and squeeze the tube so a thin line of ointment is applied in the pocket.
  • Small children and babies: Place the ointment into the inner corner of the eye, preferably with the eye open. 
  • Don’t let the tip of the tube touch the eye.
  • The ointment will spread into the eye as your child blinks.
  • Your child's vision will be blurred for a few minutes after the ointment is applied.
  • If your child needs the ointment in both eyes, repeat in the other eye.
  • Replace the cap on the tube.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

For more detailed information see how to give medicines – eye ointment Medicines for Children, UK

 (Medicines for Children, UK, 2016)

Storing your eye ointment

  • Eye ointments are free from germs (sterile) before opening.
  • Once the ointment tube is opened, keep the tube closed in a cool, dark place (unless otherwise advised) and away from children.
  • Most eye ointments expire 4 weeks after first opening. Do not keep for longer than the expiry date.
  • Write the date that you open the tube on the label so you will know when it is time to discard it.
  • Return any leftover eye ointment to your pharmacy, which can dispose of it safely.

Precautions before taking eye ointment

  • Do not let anyone else use your eye ointment.
  • Do not use anyone else's eye ointment.
  • Some eye ointments sting or irritate for a short while and some people may be allergic to some eye ointments.
  • Tell your doctor if your eyes feel worse after using an eye ointment.

Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product

Learn more

How to use eye ointments and gels Safe Medication, US

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Maya Patel, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 06 Oct 2021