Pill Blindness: The Importance of Organizing Your Medications
Ever heard the term “snow blindness?” It occurs from overexposure to direct natural or electric light, a condition akin to having sunburned corneas. Eyes feel gritty, painful and excessively teary. It is easily avoided by using UV protection while outdoors and the wisdom not to stare directly at the glare of the sun or snow or an electric welding arc.
Pill blindness is a lesser-known condition afflicting chronically ill people. It is so arcane, in fact, that you won’t find it on Wikipedia. You are hearing it for the first time, right here, right now since I totally made it up. But I am certain that once I describe the symptoms you will recognize it as a legitimate phenomenon.
The ever-growing pill bottle collection
When we are newly-diagnosed, we take few medications. If we have the inflammatory form of MS, we take a disease-modifying therapy, and for many us that might be the only medication we need. As the years go on and exacerbations take a permanent toll on our abilities, we need additional symptom meds. As we age, we might also need medications for unrelated conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases, and vascular disease. Soon we are taking ten plus pills in the morning, perhaps a few midday, and a fistful in the evening. Add natural vitamins and supplements; medications we take as needed such as over-the-counter pain relievers and sleep aids; and temporary treatments such as antibiotics. Those few pill bottles hidden in the medicine cabinet have now multiplied to the point where we must create a larger more accessible space in which to store them.
The need for a medication strategy
Taking medications has been a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants proposition. You grabbed a bottle and swallowed a pill or opened a syringe and disposed of it. Now there are 10 or 15 or 20 prescription bottles and they all look alike. You have to slow down and read the label. If you stand in front of a cupboard shelf containing 20 bottles, grab a bottle at a time, take the prescribed dose and put it back, then pick up the next one and so forth, how can you be sure you haven’t grabbed a bottle twice? This is what I call building a case of pill blindness; it comes on gradually with the likelihood of freezing you in your tracks as you stand in front of that wall of prescription bottles, unable to distinguish one from another - or you might recklessly grab what you think is the right medication and later realize the error. Now you need a strategy.
Make it easy and safe
If you think this scenario is exaggerated and silly and you trust your ability to focus and remember and feel that further safety and organization techniques aren’t necessary, think again. We have lots of things on our minds. In the morning we are preoccupied with the day’s tasks. During the afternoon we fight fatigue. In the evening our brains are tired. How’s your vision? Do you suffer from optic neuritis? Do you need to wear corrective lenses? Do you always wear those lenses when taking your meds? Have you ever taken a pill that so closely resembles another one that you’ve mistakenly swallowed the wrong pill?
Perhaps you’ve seen an amusing depiction of this kind of mistake in a television commercial for contact lenses. A man that has run out of lenses and can’t see well grabs a tube of hemorrhoid cream, squirts some on his toothbrush, and starts brushing his teeth with it. Harmless, but it gets the point across.
Using a pill organizer for MS medication
If this has happened to you—or you’re getting nervous about the possibility that it will—there is an easy solution. Pill organizers come in several different sizes, from individual day containers to large organizers that can hold thirty days’ worth of meds with three separate compartments for morning, afternoon, and evening doses for each day of the month.
Less medication bottle opening
Even if you don’t take mega quantities of pills—but you have to take them two or three times a day—keeping them in a pill organizer means you don’t have to fumble with hard-to-open prescription bottles with each dose or think about how many to take. And how about laboring to open a stubborn prescription cap only to have the bottle suddenly fly out of your hands and spill the entire months’ worth of pills all over the floor? I’ve done it myself more than once with my weak, numb, nerve-damaged fingers.
Easy to find
Pill organizers can be found in your local drugstore; just ask the pharmacist to direct you to the right aisle. I order mine from Amazon at a lower price than many drugstores will charge. You can also purchase a pill cutter online for just a few dollars.
Keeps you organized
Pill organizers are an easy, inexpensive, effective solution for what I call pill blindness. It helps to ensure accurate dosing and compliance, thereby helping you get the most benefit from your medications. And the value of your peace of mind? Priceless.
Who can relate? "Just because I could do something last year, last month, last week or yesterday doesn’t mean I can do it today. Also, it doesn’t mean I can’t."