Which Medicines Treat Glaucoma?

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on April 10, 2023
3 min read

If you have glaucoma, regular checkups and following your treatment plan can help slow or prevent vision problems.

The focus of glaucoma treatment is to lower the pressure in your eye to protect your optic nerve. To do that, your doctor might suggest you take eye drops or pills.

Glaucoma treatment most often starts with these. They're used to help the fluid in your eyes drain better. In some cases, they can also reduce the amount of fluid your eyes make.

There are several different types:

Prostaglandin analogs: These increase the amount of fluid that drains through the drainage canals in your eyes. They also ease the pressure inside your eye.

Side effects might include:

  • Changes in eyelid skin color, or iris color
  • Lengthening eyelashes
  • Blurred vision
  • Stinging
  • Redness
  • Itching

Examples of this type of drop include:

Beta blockers: These lower the amount of fluid your eye makes. That will lower the pressure.

Possible side effects include:

Examples of these drops include:

Alpha-adrenergic agonists -- These drops help with drainage, like prostaglandin analogs do. They also lessen the amount of fluid your eye makes.

Side effects could include:

Examples of these drops include:

Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: These are rarely used to treat glaucoma. They ease eye pressure because they curb the production of fluid in your eye.

Possible side effects include:

Examples include

Combined medications: Sometimes you'll be given two types of drops. It can save you time and sometimes money. Side effects depend on the medicines in the drops.

Examples include:

Cholinergic agents -- Rarely used for glaucoma, these drops help your eye make more fluid. They also help your eye drain more liquid by making your pupil smaller.

Side effects can include:

Examples include pilocarpine (Carpine, Isopto).

If eye drops don't bring down the pressure in your eyes, your doctor may go this route.

Most often, these are carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. They ease pressure by slowing production of fluid in your eyes.

Examples of these meds include:

You could have side effects like:

Whether your doctor suggests eye drops or pills for your glaucoma, it's important that you take your medicine regularly. Because glaucoma has no symptoms, it can be easy to forget your meds.

Still, drops or pills are key to controlling your eye pressure and keeping your vision.