Ocular adverse effects of common psychotropic agents: a review

CNS Drugs. 2010 Jun;24(6):501-26. doi: 10.2165/11533180-000000000-00000.


All psychotropic medications have the potential to induce numerous and diverse unwanted ocular effects. Visual adverse effects can be divided into seven major categories: eyelid and keratoconjunctival disorders; uveal tract disorders; accommodation interference; angle-closure glaucoma; cataract/pigmentary deposits in the lens and cornea; retinopathy; and other disorders. The disorders of the eyelid and of the keratoconjunctiva are mainly related to phenothiazines and lithium. Chlorpromazine, at high dosages, can commonly cause abnormal pigmentation of the eyelids, interpalpebral conjunctiva and cornea. It can also cause a more worrisome but rarer visual impairment, namely corneal oedema. Lithium can rarely lead to a bothersome eye irritation by affecting sodium transport. Uveal tract problems are mainly associated with tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), typical antipsychotics, topiramate and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). TCAs, typical antipsychotics and SSRIs can all cause mydriasis that is often transient and with no major consequences, but that can promote closure of angles in susceptible patients. Topiramate has been frequently associated with a number of significant ocular symptoms including acquired myopia and angle-closure glaucoma. Problems with accommodation are related to TCAs and to low-potency antipsychotics. TCAs cause transient blurred vision in up to one-third of patients. Angle-closure glaucoma is a serious condition that has been mainly associated with TCAs, low-potency antipsychotics, topiramate and, to a lesser extent, SSRIs. When patients with narrow angles are given TCAs, they all appear to experience induction of glaucomatous attacks. Antipsychotics and SSRIs may lead to an added risk of developing angle-closure glaucoma, but only in predisposed eyes. Topiramate can lead to an allergic-type reaction whereby structures of the lens and ciliary body are displaced, which results in angle-closure glaucoma. Cataractous changes can result from antipsychotics, mainly from high dosages of chlorpromazine or thioridazine. These two drugs, when used at high dosages and for prolonged periods, frequently cause lenticular opacifications. Retinopathy has been shown to be related to high dosages of typical antipsychotics, mainly chlorpromazine and thioridazine. The frequency of occurrence of retinal effects seems to be proportional to the total amount of drug used over a long period of time. Other visual problems of special concern are the ocular dystonias, other eye movement disorders, and decreased ability to perceive colours and to discriminate contrast. Ocular dystonias can occur with antipsychotics (especially high-potency ones), carbamazepine (especially in polytherapy), topiramate and, rarely, with SSRIs. Disturbance in various eye movements is frequently seen with benzodiazepines, antiepileptic drugs and lithium. Impairment in the perception of colours and the discrimination of contrasts has been shown to occur not uncommonly with carbamazepine and lorazepam. Thus, typical antipsychotics, TCAs, lithium, benzodiazepines, carbamazepine, topiramate and SSRIs appear to produce most of the currently recognized ocular problems. Psychiatrists, ophthalmologists and patients need to be aware of and prepared for any medication-induced adverse effect. Early prevention and intervention can avoid most of the serious and potentially irreversible ocular toxicities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Monitoring
  • Eye / drug effects*
  • Eye Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Eye Diseases / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Psychotropic Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Vision, Ocular / drug effects*


  • Psychotropic Drugs