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Medications for Cataracts
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your ophthalmologist if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your ophthalmologist, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your healthcare provider.
Surgery is the only treatment that will cure a cataract. Eye drops may help control the symptoms of cataracts and help you see more clearly until surgery is required.
However, medications are rarely used in the treatment of cataracts; most patients decide to have surgery to remove the cataracts.
Phenylephrine or Other Pupil-Dilating Drops
Common brand names include:
If the cataract is small and central in the eye’s lens, dilating eye drops can be used to temporarily control the symptoms of cataracts and help you see better. The eye drops cause the pupils of the eyes to widen. When using these drops, your doctor may advise you to:
- Wash hands before use.
- Apply pressure to inside corner of eye with finger.
- Continue pressure for one minute after placing drops in eye.
- Close eye and keep closed for several minutes after application of drops.
- Keep eye drop applicator tip clean.
Do not let it touch your eye or eyelashes.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors as bright light will likely be irritating to you.
Dilating eye drops should not be used with other eye drops unless your healthcare provider says it is safe.
Possible side effects may include, but are not limited to:
- Burning or stinging of the eyes
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Pain, decreased vision, and nausea (which may be signs of an acute glaucoma attack, possibly initiated by the eyedrops)
If you develop any effects from the medication, talk to your doctor immediately.
When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider
You should contact your ophthalmologist and discuss having surgery for cataracts when your vision difficulties get to the point where:
- You feel unsafe or uncomfortable
You are unable to perform normal daily tasks or activities, such as:
- Watching television
- Taking medications
Cataract surgery is much safer and more successful than in the past. Today some eye doctors and surgeons recommend having cataract surgery sooner rather than later, because delaying the surgery may make it more difficult to perform.
Removing a cataract is rarely an emergency, therefore it should not be performed until you feel ready to have the surgery.
Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:
- Take them as directed—not more, not less, not at a different time.
- Do not stop taking them without consulting your healthcare provider.
- Don’t share them with anyone else.
- Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your ophthalmologist.
- If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.
- Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
- Ask your doctor if the medication is safe to take if you are pregnant or breast feeding.
- For eye drops, usually one drop at a time is sufficient. Placing more drops is often a waste of medicine and can occasionally be dangerous. Talk to your doctor about how many drops you should use.
American Academy of Ophthalmology
website. Available at:
21st ed. Micromedex; 2001.