A number of different types of medications are currently in use to treat glaucoma. If your doctor feels you will benefit from treatment with medication, she will work with you to find one that is appropriate for you. Your doctor may prescribe one medication or a combination of two or more medications to provide the most effective treatment for you.  At times, finding the right medication for you can be a trial and error process since you may not respond to or may have side effects to some of the medications.

All glaucoma medicines have the possibility of having side effects, some of which can be uncomfortable. A few side effects can be quite serious, but those are not common. Please let your doctor know of any side effects you are experiencing from the medication. It is possible to experience these side effects either initially or over a long period of time. Your doctor will work with you to find a medication that is the most comfortable for you. 

Over time, the medications you are using may start to lose their effectiveness or the glaucoma can progress without your knowledge. For this reason, it is important to have regular check ups so adjustments to your treatment can be made by your physician before your condition worsens. Adjustments may include changing the drop you are using or using a different combination of drops that may be more effective in controlling the pressure in your eye.

Remember, you and your doctor must work together to determine the best medicines for you. Never change or stop taking your medications without consulting your glaucoma physician.

The following is a list of different types of glaucoma medications and their possible side effects:

  1. Prostaglandin Analogues
  2. Beta-blockers
  3. Alpha-Adrenergic Agonists
  4. Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors

Additional information:

  1. Tips for Taking Your Glaucoma Medicine
  2. Eyedrop Tips


Prostaglandin Analogues

Prostaglandin Analogues are drugs that work to lower pressure in the eye by improving fluid drainage. These drops are powerful and require use only once per day.  As with most medicines, however, some people will be non-responders.

Possible side effects. A rare side effect may be a darkening of eye color or eyelid. Often, there is an increased growth of eyelashes. Side effects can also include redness, itching, burning and blurred vision.

Medicine Brand Name Image
bimaprost Lumigan view image
latanaprost Xalatan view image
travaprost Travatan-Z view image


Beta-blockers decrease pressure inside the eye by reducing the amount of aqueous fluid your eye makes. They are most effective when used in the morning.  It is prudent to check with your primary care doctor before starting drops in this class, particularly if you have certain medical conditions. People with asthma, some kinds of heart disease or low blood pressure should be very careful about using beta-blockers to treat their glaucoma. Also, if a patient is on other "blocker" medicines for other health problems, the combined effect of the drugs could cause problems.

Possible side effects include possible respiratory problems, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, blurred vision, tiredness, forgetfulness, and changes in blood cholesterol levels.

Medicine Brand Name Image
timilol hemihydrate 0.50% Betimol view image
timilol maleate 0.5% Istalol view image
timilol maleate 0.5% Timoptic view image
timilol maleate (gel) Timoptic XE view image

Alpha-Adrenergic Agonists

Alpha-Adrenergic Agonists are eye drops that lessen the amount of aqueous fluid the eye makes and may also increase flow of fluid out of the eye. These drops are sometimes used after laser surgery to prevent sudden rises in pressure.

Possible side effects include allergic reactions, dry mouth, burning of the eyes, dilated pupils, nasal decongestion and drowsiness.

Medicine Brand Name Image
apraclonidine lopidine  
brimonidine tatrate Alphagan, Alphagan-P view image

Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors

Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors come in pills or drops. They reduce the amount of aqueous fluid the eye makes. The pills have a higher level of side effects than do the drops. The pills may be used when other attempts to control the glaucoma have not worked fully. The eye drop form of these medications has less severe side effects and is quite powerful.

Possible side effects. The more common eye drop form of this drug may cause stinging, burning, a feeling of something in the eye, and an odd taste in the mouth. Taken as pills (only rarely nowadays), these drugs can have side effects throughout the body, including fatigue, tingling in the hands and feet, depression, frequent urination, anemia, kidney stones, loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Monitoring the dose of the oral pill and taking the medicine with food may help. Pregnant women and people sensitive to sulfa-related drugs should take these medicines with caution if at all. A toxic reaction may occur if taken with large doses of aspirin. Very rarely, these drugs can lead to serious conditions known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome and aplastic anemia.

Medicine Brand Name Image
acetazolamide (pill) Diamox view image
brinzolamide (drop) Azopt view image
dorzolamide (drop) Trusopt view image
methazolamide (pill) Neptazane  

Combinations containing two medicines in the same bottle:

Medicine Brand Name Image
dorzolamide/timolol maleate Cosopt view image

Follow your treatment plan
It's up to you to follow your treatment plan and have regular follow-up visits. These visits are usually scheduled every 3 months with testing. At follow-up visits, your doctor will check to see if your glaucoma is getting worse. Remember to report anything you believe may be a side effect of the medicine you are taking.

Don't skip doses!
Take your medicine as scheduled. Skipping doses of your medicine may put your vision in danger and mislead your doctor. Be sure to tell your doctor if you've missed any doses.

With a chronic disease like glaucoma, it can be hard to remember to use medicines as directed. It may help to link taking medicine to the things you do every day like eating meals or brushing your teeth.

After evaluating your progress, your doctor may try changing your doses, switching medicines or changing other parts of your treatment to find the best results for you. Sometimes simple changes like adjusting your schedule to take your medicines at mealtimes or before bed can make your drug routine more comfortable.

Tips for Taking Your Glaucoma Medicine

  • Ask your doctor to write down an exact schedule for taking your medicine, especially if you're taking more than one.
  • Ask your doctor what to do if you accidentally forget a dose. The instructions may be different depending on which medicines you are taking.
  • Learn about the medicines you are taking and the best way to use them. Find out whether they need special handling, such as storing them in the refrigerator.
  • If you take a combination of drops and ointments, always apply the drops first.
  • Schedule your doses around your normal routine, such as when you wake up, when you eat meals, and when you go to bed at night.
  • Keep your medicines in plain sight; it's easier to remember to take them.
  • Keep medicines in a clean place. For example, if you carry them in your purse, put them in a plastic zipper bag to keep them clean.
  • Take your medicines with you when you're away from home. If you're checking luggage at the airport, keep your medicines with you in your carry-on or in your purse.
  • If you forget a dose, do not automatically double your next dose. Instead, follow your doctor's instructions on what to do.
  • If you can't remember whether you took your medicines, simply use one dose at your next scheduled time.
  • Tell all of your doctors about all the medicines you are taking. Glaucoma medicines may interact with drugs prescribed for other conditions.
  • Call your eye doctor if you notice any unusual changes in your eyes, your vision or the way you feel in general.
  • Schedule regular checkups and follow through with them.
  • Take care of yourself, your eyes and the rest of you along with them!

Eyedrop Tips

Guide to Using Eye Drops

Prescription eye drops for glaucoma help maintain the pressure in your eye at a healthy level and are an important part of the treatment routine for many people. Always check with your doctor if you are having difficulty.


  • Follow your doctor's orders.
  • Be sure your doctor knows about any other drugs you may be taking (including over-the­counter items like vitamins, aspirin, and herbal supplements) and about any allergies you may have.
  • Wash your hands before putting in your eye drops.
  • Be careful not to let the tip of the dropper touch any part of your eye.
  • Make sure the dropper stays clean.
  • If you are putting in more than one drop or more than one type of eye drop, wait five minutes before putting the next drop in. This will keep the first drop from being washed out by the second before it has had time to work.
  • Store eye drops and all medicines out of the reach of children.

Steps for putting in eye drops:

  1. Start by tilting your head backward while sitting, standing, or lying down. With your index finger placed on the soft spot just below the lower lid, gently pull down to form a pocket.
  2. Let a drop fall into the pocket.
  3. Slowly let go of the lower lid. Close your eyes but try not to shut them tight or squint. This may push the drops out of your eye.
  4. Gently press on the inside corner of your closed eyes with your index finger and thumb for two to three minutes. This will help keep any drops from getting into your system and keep them in your eye, where they are needed.
  5. Blot around your eyes to remove any excess.

If you are still having trouble putting eye drops in, here are some tips that may help.

If your hands are shaking: Try approaching your eye from the side so you can rest your hand on your face to help steady your hand.

If shaky hands are still a problem, you might try using a 1 or 2 pound wrist weight (you can get these at any sporting goods store). The extra weight around the wrist of the hand you're using can decrease mild shaking.

If you are having trouble getting the drop into your eye: Try this. With your head turned to the side or lying on your side, close your eyes. Place a drop in the inner corner of your eyelid (the side closest to the bridge of your nose). By opening your eyes slowly, the drop should fall right into your eye.

If you are still not sure the drop actually got in your eye, put in another drop. The eyelids can hold only about one drop, so any excess will just run out of the eye. It is better to have excess run out than to not have enough medication in your eye.

Having trouble holding onto the bottle? If the eye drop bottle feels too small to hold (in cases where a dropper isn't used and the drop comes directly from the bottle), try wrapping something (like a paper towel) around the bottle.

You can use anything that will make the bottle wider. This may be helpful in some mild cases of arthritis in the hands.

Assistive devices are available to help you put in your eye drops.


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