How Do Topical Alpha Agonists Work?

Reviewed on 6/14/2021

WHAT ARE TOPICAL ALPHA AGONISTS AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Topical alpha agonists are medications used to treat a skin disorder known as  rosacea. Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory facial disorder characterized by redness and visible blood vessels (vasodilatation) on the face.

Alpha adrenergic receptor agents include agonists and antagonists that bind to the alpha-1 and alpha-2 adrenergic receptors. Topical alpha agonists bind to alpha-2 adrenergic receptors, mainly present in the brain and periphery. When these receptors are activated, they cause the blood vessels to constrict.

Topical alpha agonists work in the following ways:

  • Redness of the face results from dysregulation in the cutaneous vasomotor responses, which leads to abnormal dilation of facial blood vessels upon various stimuli.
  • Topical alpha agonists bind to alpha-2 receptors, which constrict the dilated facial blood vessels to reduce the redness of rosacea.
Topical alpha agonists are available in the form of gels and creams. A pea-size amount of the drug is recommended to be applied once daily to all five areas of the face: central forehead, chin, nose, and both cheeks. They work quickly to reduce the redness of the face and its beneficial effect lasts up to 12 hours

HOW ARE TOPICAL ALPHA AGONISTS USED?

They are used to treat skin conditions including:

  • Rosacea (persistent facial erythema)
  • Flushing of face

WHAT ARE SIDE EFFECTS OF TOPICAL ALPHA AGONISTS?

Common side effects include:

  • Erythema (redness)
  • Flushing
  • Burning and/or stinging
  • Application-site dermatitis
  • Pain and itching at the site of application

Other rare side effects include:

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.

IMAGES

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WHAT ARE DRUG NAMES OF TOPICAL ALPHA AGONISTS?

Drug names include:                               

References
https://reference.medscape.com/drugs/alpha-agonists-topical

https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-164971/brimonidine-topical/details

https://dermnetnz.org/topics/brimonidine/

https://www.rxlist.com/mirvaso-drug.htm#description

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2018/0615/p808.html

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