Colour coded eye drops

Last week we looked at ways to improve your technique, when putting in eye drops. We also looked at how best to store eye drops.

This week, as promised we will look at the more popular eye drops used to treat glaucoma and how they really work.

The last tip in the 14-point article was that, the colour of your eye drop could give a clue as to what the drop is used for. There was supposed to be a colour chart. Here it is this week:

Don’t let some of the class names frighten you; this would be a good time to ask your pharmacist what some of the words mean.

Glaucoma eye drops are not all the same. Manufacturers would have found different ways to deal with the problems behind what caused the glaucoma in the first place.

As was stated in the last article, glaucoma occurs when the pressure within the eyeball is high enough to cause damage to the eye sight due to damage of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is that nerve that allows our brains to interpret the electrical signals created by our retinas’ into images. In English this means that the pressure in the eye ball real high! And in the same way we treat high blood pressure with tablets to bring our blood pressure within a range that is safe, so to the eye drops.

So here we go:


Alphagan drops would have changed their strength recently, but are still effective to treat glaucoma. Alphagan lowers the pressure within the eye ball by reducing the amount of fluid (aqueous humor) produced in the eye. Remember this fluid is what helps to give the eye ball its shape as well. Alphagan also increases the draining out of excess fluid. Since less fluid is now produced and more drainage done, then the eye pressure drops.

Alphagan comes from the chemical family called alpha agonists (hence the name) and so could cause dry mouth, fatigue and in some cases an allergy. This allergy exhibits itself as red, swollen eyes. Sometimes this occurs months after using the drop, so if you develop such a reaction, see your eye doctor first, before buying over the counter drops.

Timoptic/ Timoptic XE/ Timolol/ Betagan

These are all beta blockers or beta antagonists (no prizes for seeing the name association here). They work by reducing the amount of fluid secreted into the eye. So once again, less fluid entering the eye means reduced eye pressure.

The beta blockers have been used successfully for over 20 years and do not cause many side effects. Asthmatics may experience breathing issues if prescribed this class of drops. Beta blockers can also make you feel lazy and reduce the libido and sometimes can mask hypoglycemia in diabetics. Therefore it is important that your medical doctor knows you are using these types of drops, when complaining of tiredness.

Betoptic / Betoptic-S

These are also beta blockers as well but are better tolerated by asthmatics or persons suffering from bronchial issues.

Trusopt / Azopt

This group of drops also reduces eye pressure by inhibiting the amount of fluid secreted into the eye. Trusopt and Azopt are derived from a class of drug known as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors and have been used to replace the need for some patients to take tablets such as Diamox and Azomide.

It has been found that the drops give far fewer side effects than the tablets. These drops can cause a metallic taste in the mouth and there have been reports of a

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burning sensation in the eyes when used. This is not a side effect but a normal reaction when using these drops.


This is a combination of Trusopt and Timoptic in one bottle. So you get the best of both worlds in one application. This drop comes in a special container that allows one drop at a time to de instilled into the eye.

Xalatan / Xalacom / Lumigan/ Saflutan

This class of drops reduces the eye pressure by increasing the amount of fluid drained out of the eye. Since more fluid is drained away the pressure falls. This group is known as prostaglandin analogues.

The prostaglandin analogues have a unique side effect of darkening the eye colour (iris) in people with blue or green eyes. Also they cause lengthening of the eye lashes. These are kept in the fridge at all times. The Saflutan comes in single use ampoules. These are only used once daily.


Again a matter of killing of one bird with two stones. This is a combination of xalatan and timoptic. This should be kept in the fridge.


This old stager has been around for about 100 years and like the Duracell bunny keeps going and going. This cholinergic agent can cause blurred vision, because it decreases the size of the pupil, causing night vision problems.

This too drains excess fluid out of the eye ball, thus reducing the pressure

As can be seen from the above listing, your glaucoma eye drops are no ordinary something. They play a very effective role in delaying the damages of glaucoma.

Like most medicines, they only are effective when used correctly. I trust you will keep these two articles as keep sakes and refer to them from time to time, because playing around with your drops will lead to blindness. If you are travelling, treat the drops that are to be refrigerated in the same manner as you would treat insulin. Let all members of your health team know that you are using these drops and that you do in fact have glaucoma. Even some cough syrups and cold medicines can stop your drops from helping you.

As usual keep close to your pharmacist — they know.

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