Glaucoma Medication

Open-Angle Glaucoma is often treated with medications that either help the eye’s fluid drain better or decrease the amount of fluid being made. Medications must be taken daily to keep eye pressure at a safe level. In most cases, medications can safely control eye pressure for many years.

It is normal for your medication prescriptions to change over time. Changing medications does not necessarily mean that your glaucoma is getting worse. As your body begins to develop a tolerance for a medication, it may slowly lose its effectiveness and may need to be replaced by a stronger version of the same drug or a different medication. Doctors often can return to previously used medications after your body has had a chance to “forget” the old medication.

Glaucoma medications most commonly are in the form of eye drops.

Most medications have some side effects, including effects on vision, eye comfort, and sometimes other parts of your body. In particular, older people with glaucoma should look for changes in behavior or mobility that may be a side effect of medications. If the side effects are very uncomfortable or last a while, your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medication.

To make sure your glaucoma medications are not interacting with other medications you are taking, make sure to tell all of your doctors, including your family physician, about your glaucoma medications and any other drugs you may be taking, including aspirin, vitamins and natural remedies. Tell your doctors about any side effects you may be experiencing or allergies you have.

The following are some of the possible side effects of the main classes of glaucoma medications:

  • Prostaglandin Analogs: Eye color change, darkening of eyelid skin, eyelash growth, droopy eyelids, sunken eyes, stinging, eye redness, and itching
  • Beta Blockers: Low blood pressure, slowed pulse rate, fatigue, shortness of breath
  • Alpha Agonists: Burning or stinging, fatigue, headache, drowsiness, dry mouth and nose, allergic reaction
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors: In eye drop form—stinging, burning, eye discomfort; in pill form—tingling hands and feet, fatigue, stomach upset, memory problems, frequent urination
  • Rho Kinase Inhibitors: Eye redness, deposits on cornea, stinging, small bleeds on the white of the eye.

New Treatments on the Horizon

New forms of glaucoma drug delivery are being developed to improve medication treatment options. One area of interest is “sustained-release” medication. Sustained-release medication evenly releases a drug over a longer time. In this way, medications can be used weekly, monthly, or at even longer intervals. This would make the process of taking medications more convenient and efficient and potentially reduce side effects. There are many sustained-release options being researched and developed.

In addition, new classes of drugs to treat glaucoma are being studied. Researchers are working to find glaucoma medications with fewer side effects, ones that can be taken less often, and drugs that are more responsive to the eye and so more effective at lowering eye pressure.