Pupillary response to four concentrations of pilocarpine in normal subjects: application to testing for Adie tonic pupil

Am J Ophthalmol. 2002 Mar;133(3):333-6. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(01)01420-9.


Purpose: To determine the amount of pupillary constriction to four different concentrations of pilocarpine in normal human subjects and to determine if pupillary constriction correlates with bioavailability of the instilled concentrations. The amount of pupillary constriction to dilute pilocarpine is utilized as a diagnostic test for Adie tonic pupil as distinguished from a normal pupil response.

Design: Twenty healthy volunteers had automated binocular infrared pupillography in the dark after instillation of four different concentrations of dilute pilocarpine. Ocular penetration of eye drops was also assessed using 2% fluorescein sodium as a tracer.

Methods: Prospective institutional double-masked study of both eyes of twenty healthy volunteers, ten with brown irides, ten with blue irides, between the ages of 20-40 years.

Results: A pilocarpine dose-dependent curve showed decreased pupil size within 15 minutes, peaking at 30-60 minutes. No difference was noted between right and left eyes, iris color, or corneal permeability.

Conclusions: Normal pupils constrict to dilute concentrations of pilocarpine (0.25% or 0.125%), but constrict insignificantly to concentrations of 0.0313% or 0.0625%. Pupil constriction with 0.0625% pilocarpine should distinguish an Adie pupil from normal. This confirms the utility of this simple office diagnostic procedure.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Availability
  • Cornea / metabolism
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Eye Color
  • Female
  • Fluorophotometry
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Miotics / administration & dosage*
  • Miotics / pharmacokinetics
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / administration & dosage
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / pharmacokinetics
  • Pilocarpine / administration & dosage*
  • Pilocarpine / pharmacokinetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pupil / drug effects*
  • Tears / metabolism
  • Tonic Pupil / diagnosis*


  • Miotics
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Pilocarpine