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Medications for Cataracts

by Rick Alan

The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your health care provider if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your health care provider, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your health care provider.

Surgery is the only treatment that will cure a cataract. Eye drops may help control the symptoms of cataracts and help you see more clearly until surgery is required.

Prescription Medications

Phenylephrine or Other Pupil-Dilating Drops

Common brand names include:

  • Mydfrin
  • Neo-Synephrine
  • AK-Dilate

If the cataract is small and central in the eye's lens, dilating eye drops can be used to temporarily control the symptoms of cataracts and help you see better. The eye drops cause the pupils of the eyes to widen. When using these drops, your doctor may advise you to:

  • Wash hands before use.
  • Apply pressure to inside corner of eye with finger.
  • Continue pressure for one minute after placing drops in eye.
  • Close eye and keep closed for several minutes after application of drops.
  • Keep eye drop applicator tip clean. Do not let it touch your eye or eyelashes.
  • Wear sunglasses outdoors as bright light will likely be irritating to you.

Dilating eye drops should not be used with other eye drops unless your health care provider says it is safe.

Possible side effects may include, but are not limited to:

  • Burning or stinging of the eyes
  • Headache

If you develop any effects from the medication, talk to your doctor immediately.

When to Contact Your Health Care Provider

You should contact your eye doctor and discuss having surgery for cataracts when your vision difficulties get to the point where:

  • You feel unsafe or uncomfortable
  • You are unable to perform normal daily tasks or activities, such as:
    • Reading
    • Driving
    • Watching television
    • Taking medications

Cataract surgery is much safer and more successful than in the past. Today some eye doctors and surgeons recommend having cataract surgery sooner rather than later, because delaying the surgery may make it more difficult to perform.

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take them as directed: not more, not less, not at a different time.
  • Do not stop taking them without consulting your health care provider.
  • Don't share them with anyone else.
  • Know what effects and side effects to expect, and report them to your health care provider.
  • If you are taking more than one drug, even if it is over-the-counter, be sure to check with a physician or pharmacist about drug interactions.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you don't run out.
  • Ask your doctor if the medication is safe to take if you are pregnant or breast feeding.


American Academy of Ophthalmology

USP DI, 21st edition. Micromedex; 2001.

Last reviewed October 2004 by Kimberly Rask, MD, PhD

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