Side Effects of Glaucoma Medicine

A wide array of topical medications are used to treat glaucoma, or high pressure in the eye. The skin covering the outer surface of the eye and inside the eyelids provides a quick and efficient spot for drugs to be absorbed into the eye, so many glaucoma drugs come in the form of eye drops.

Drugs used to treat glaucoma include beta blockers, miotics, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, alpha agonists, and prostaglandin analogues. Here are some of the side effects of each one:

Beta blockers
Worsening of asthma, bradycardia (slow heart rate), congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, slowed heart beat, masking signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), lethargy, irritability, insomnia, impotence, low blood pressure, reduced exercise tolerance, reduced HDL (good cholesterol). Brand names: Timoptic, Betoptic, Betagan
Headache, excessive salivation and tearing, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, pulmonary edema, symptoms of shock, slowed heartbeat. Brand names: Pilocarpine, Carbachol
Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors
Paresthesia (unusual sensation such as tingling), lethargy, fatigue, anorexia, kidney stones, skin rash, and rarely, aplastic anemia. Brand names: Diamox, Neptazane, Trusopt, Azopt
Adrenergic Agents, non-selective
Headache, anorexia, premature ventricular contractions; includes epinephrine, propine
Adrenergic Agents, selective
Nausea, dry mouth, cold extremities (hands and feet), chest tightness, muscular pain, fatigue, and drowsiness. Brand names: Alphagan, Iopidine
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), cardiovascular system overload, headache, confusion, disorientation, subdural hematoma, pulmonary edema, congestive heart failure. Brand names: Osmoglyn, Mannitol
Prostaglandin analogues
Discolored skin around the eyeball, flu-like symptoms, muscular pain, and fever. Brand names: Xalatan, Travatan, Lumigan, Rescula

It is important to use the medicine as your doctor directs so that a proper eye pressure is maintained. Untreated glaucoma can lead to blindness. However, because many of these side effects can lead to serious health complications, call your doctor immediately if you begin to notice such symptoms.