Eye Drops and Medications | How to Treat Glaucoma

Treating Glaucoma | Drops and MedicationsThere are many ways to treat glaucoma.  The best way to treat glaucoma is by treating the underlying cause.  Medications and eye drops are usually the first line of treatment, but laser treatment or surgery may also be required.

The most common cause of glaucoma in the United States is “Open Angle Glaucoma.”  While we do not really know the exact cause of this painless type of glaucoma, high intraocular eye pressure (IOP) is a big risk factor for the disease and the most common treatment is aimed at reducing IOP.

These are common medications used to treat glaucoma.

Eye Drops

Eyedrops may lower the eye pressure by either reducing the rate of production of aqueous humor (the internal eye fluid produced by the eye) or by increasing the drainage of the aqueous humor from the eye.

There are several categories of eye drops from which we can choose to treat IOP:

  • Prostaglandins – increase drainage from eye
    • Xalatan
    • Lumigan
    • Travatan Z
    • Zioptan
  • Beta Blockers – decrease production of fluid.  Timolol is an example
  • Alpha Agonists – decrease production AND increase drainage
    • Alphagan (brimonidine)
    • Iopidine (apraclonidine)
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors (CAIs) – decrease production of aqueous
    • Trusopt (dorzolamide)
    • Azopt (brinzolamide)
  • Combined Medications – eye drops contain more than one medication
    • Cosopt (beta blocker + dorzolamide)
    • Combigan (beta blocker + brimonidine)
    • Simbrinza (brimonidine + brinzolamide)
  • Cholinergic agonists – Pilocarpine is still available, but not used often.

Oral Medications

There are very few oral medications used to treat glaucoma.  When used, oral medications are used to supplement eye drop therapy.  Here are the few oral medications (pills) available, both are carbonic anhydrase inhibitors:

  • Diamox – decrease production of aqueous
  • Neptazane – decreases production

Side Effects of Glaucoma Medications

Eye drops are effectively absorbed into our bodies and side effects are quite possible.   All eye drops can possibly cause side effects.  Consult with your doctor to learn more specific concerns about your exact medications.

As an example, beta blockers (Timolol) can cause low blood pressure, slower pulse, fatigue, shortness of breath and others.

We look forward to seeing you. If you would like to make an appointment or if you have questions about glaucoma, please call us.

Gregory Scimeca, M.D.
Ophthalmologist and Medical Director

Burlington County Eye Physicians
Eye Professionals, LLC (Millville, NJ)
Eye Physicians and Surgeons of Bucks County (Langhorne, PA)