New glaucoma medications in the geriatric population: efficacy and safety

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2002 May;50(5):956-62. doi: 10.1046/j.1532-5415.2002.50226.x.


Glaucoma can be considered a disease of the aging eye. Most medications used to treat glaucoma are in topical eyedrop form and may cause numerous untoward systemic effects in older persons. In recent years, several new ocular hypotensive medications have become available. These medications are being used more commonly because there is a growing trend by ophthalmologists to aggressively lower intraocular pressure. Therefore, geriatricians require a comprehensive knowledge of medications used to treat glaucoma, in addition to an understanding of their mechanism of action profiles of untoward effects and possible interactions with other diseases or medications. Therefore, we performed a review of the medications recently introduced into clinical practice. We selected drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration between 1996 and September 2001. The safety profiles of these agents and their untoward side effects were reviewed by class: topical carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (brinzolamide: ocular tolerance, taste perversion), beta-adrenoceptor antagonists (timolol: bradycardia and bronchospasm), alpha-adrenergic agonists (brimonidine: oral dryness, headache, and fatigue), and prostaglandin analogs (latanoprost, bimatoprost, travoprost, and unoprostone isopropyl: ocular hyperemia, iris color changes). The function of this review is to make geriatricians more aware of the efficacy and untoward effects of medications recently introduced into clinical practice. We recommend that geriatricians perform a medication review on all medications their patients use, including eye drops.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic Agonists / adverse effects*
  • Adrenergic Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / adverse effects*
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Geriatrics*
  • Glaucoma / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / adverse effects*
  • Ophthalmic Solutions / therapeutic use*
  • Prostaglandins, Synthetic / adverse effects*
  • Prostaglandins, Synthetic / therapeutic use*


  • Adrenergic Agonists
  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors
  • Ophthalmic Solutions
  • Prostaglandins, Synthetic