There are many different eye medications that are used to treat and prevent eye diseases.
Most often, you require a prescription for them; however eye drops such as artificial tears, which help lubricate the eye, and eye decongestants, which decrease redness in the eye, are available over the counter at pharmacies and food stores.
The most common medications for the eyes are drops and ointments but in some cases oral medications such as tablets, liquids and capsules are used, as well as intravenous fluids and injections of medication around the eye.
Types of Eye Meds
There are four main classifications of eye meds. They are primarily used for glaucoma, eye infections, allergies and redness/inflammation of the eyes.
Eye meds can also be used as a diagnostic tool - dilation drops enlarge the pupils of the eye so an eye doctor can peer into the pupil and see the retina. There are also eye medications to numb the eye (anesthetics) which are commonly used to remove debris from the eye or for some diagnostic testing.
The most common eye medications for inflammation or conjunctivitis include:
For glaucoma, there are several types of eye medications that the doctor may prescribe, or a combination of them, which include:
* Prostaglandins - Xalatan, Lumigan, Travatan Z and Rescula
* Beta-blockers - Timoptic XE, Istalol and Betoptic S
* Alpha-adrenergic agonists: Iopidine, Alphagan and Alphagan-P
* Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: Trusopt and Azopt. The pill form of carbonic anhydrase inhibitors includes Diamox, Neptazane and Daranide
* Parasympathomimetics: pilocarpine, carbachol, echothiophate and demecarium
* Epinephrine: Allergan's Propine and epinephrine
* Hyperosmotic agents: glycerin and isosorbide orally, and mannitol and urea intravenously
* Combination glaucoma drugs: Cosopt, Combigan and DuoTrav
Allergy medications also come in a variety of types:
* Anti-histamine eye drops - Emadine
* Mast cell stabilizer eye drops - Available as cromolyn (Crolom), nedocromil (Alocril), lodoxamide (Alomide) and pemirolast (Alamast)
* Anti-histamine/mast cell stabilizer dual-action eye drops - olopatadine (Patanol), azelastine (Optivar), epinastine (Elestat) and ketotifen (Zaditor)
* Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory eye drops - Ketorolac (Acular)
* Corticosteroid eye drops - loteprednol (Alrex)
Proper Use of Eye Medication
When using eye drops or ointments, there's a specific procedure you should follow to properly administer the medication to your eye so that the medication can work.
First, wash your hands well with soap and water. You should wash your hands (at any time) for 15 to 20 seconds with soap, rubbing your hands vigorously together, paying attention to the area between your fingers, under your fingernails and the backs of your hands, then rinsing them off with hot water.
Shake the container of eye medication to ensure that it hasn't separated and is well mixed.
Unscrew the cap of the eye medication and ensure there's no debris or "crust" on the dropper. If there is, use a clean damp cloth and wipe it away.
Tilt your head back and look up.
Using your forefinger of one hand, gently pull the lower lid down to form a pouch.
Place one drop of ointment (or as much as is prescribed) into the pouch. Do not touch your eye or eyelid with the dropper.
If you're using drops, for the next 5 minutes, keep that eye closed, or, press your finger against the inner corner of your eye and against your nose to prevent the medication from draining away in the tear duct. For ointment, simply close your eye and blink a few times. It's normal to have blurry vision for a few minutes.
Repeat the same procedure for your other eye. If you have conjunctivitis, wash your hands thoroughly between eyes to prevent cross contamination and re-infection.
Replace the cap tightly on the container.
Wash your hands thoroughly again. This is especially important if you have an infectious eye condition.
Eye Medication Side Effects
Any medication can have side effects, eye medications included.
Eye drops can cause redness, blurry vision, light sensitivity, narrowing of the pupils and stinging. Anti-inflammatory eye medications can have some more severe side effects such as glaucoma, eye infections and cataracts.
Anesthetic eye drops when used repeatedly can cause damage to the cornea.
Some eye medications can also have side effects that affect other parts of your body and they include diarrhea, sweating, dryness of the skin, mouth or nose and stomach cramping.
Beta blockers used for glaucoma can cause asthma attacks, lowered blood pressure, slow heart rate, memory loss, libido decrease and disorientation or confusion.
If you experience any side effects listed on the container of your eye medication, or a symptom that might be a side effect, contact your doctor or pharmacist. If you are having a severe reaction or side effect, go to the emergency room immediately and take the medication with you.
Anatomy and Physiology of the Eye
The eyes are complex organs that are comprised of many parts that allow us to see. In order to see, light waves from an object enter the eye from the cornea (clear dome at the front of the eye).
The light moves through the pupil (the black circle in the center of the colored iris). Light changes change the size of the pupil - when the light is bright the pupils get smaller. In the dark, the pupils enlarge to allow as much light in as possible in order to see.
When the light from an object enters the eye via the cornea, they are bent and then bent again by the crystalline lens which is located right behind the pupil and iris.
The light moves to a nodal point which is at the back of the crystalline lens. Here, the image seen is reversed and upside down. The light then moves through the vitreous humor, a clear gel that is 80 percent of the eye's volume, and then the image comes back to clear focus on the retina which is located behind the vitreous humor.
The central part of the retina is called the macula which provides the clearest vision in the retina. The light impulses are then changed to electrical signals which are sent through the optic nerve along the visual pathway to the occipital cortex which is located at the back of the brain. Here, the signals are interpreted by our brain as a visual image.