How Do Ophthalmic Decongestants Work?

What are ophthalmic decongestants and how do they work?

Ophthalmic decongestants are medications that provide temporary relief for redness, burning and minor irritation in the eyes. Ophthalmic decongestants reduce redness in the eyes by constricting dilated blood vessels. The effects of decongestants may last up to six hours.

Ophthalmic decongestants are a class of medications known as alpha agonists. Alpha agonist drugs stimulate the activity of protein molecules known as alpha adrenergic receptors on smooth muscles of blood vessels and make them contract. The constriction of eye’s blood vessels reduces redness and irritation in the eyes.

Some ophthalmic decongestant drugs are combined with a lubricant such as glycerin to prevent dryness and irritation, and/or zinc sulfate, an astringent that helps reduce redness and irritation in the eyes.

How are ophthalmic decongestants used?

Ophthalmic decongestants are solutions that are topically administered in the eye. Ophthalmic decongestants are available over the counter (OTC). Ophthalmic decongestants are used to relieve eye redness and burning from conditions such as:

  • Dry eyes
  • Red, watery and itchy eyes from cold or allergies
  • Minor eye irritations from:
    • Smoke/smog
    • Dust
    • Swimming
    • Contact lens

What are the side effects of ophthalmic decongestants?

Side effects of ophthalmic decongestants may include the following:

Ocular side effects:

Systemic side effects:

Information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible side effects, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure these drugs do not cause any harm when you take them along with other medicines. Never stop taking your medication and never change your dose or frequency without consulting your doctor.

What are names of some ophthalmic decongestant drugs?

Generic and brand names of some ophthalmic decongestant drugs include:

  • Naphazoline hydrochloride ophthalmic (Naphcon, Opcon, Visine, All Clear, Rohto Cool, Bausch and Lomb Advanced Eye Relief)
  • Naphazoline hydrochloride/glycerin ophthalmic (Clear Eyes Cooling Comfort Redness Relief)
  • Naphazoline hydrochloride/zinc sulfate/glycerin ophthalmic (Clear Eyes Cooling Itchy Eye Relief)
  • Tetrahydrozoline hydrochloride ophthalmic (Visine Advanced Relief, Rohto Ice)

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