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What Is Apraclonidine?

By B. Chisholm
Updated May 17, 2024
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Apraclonidine is the active ingredient in an eye drop preparation used to decrease pressure in the eye in people with glaucoma or who are undergoing laser eye surgery. It is available in most countries by prescription only, and may be known by different trade names in different countries, according to manufacturer. Apraclonidine solution comes in two strengths, 0.5% and 1%, and the prescribed strength and dosage thereof should not be exceeded.

The mechanism of action of apraclonidine depends on its action on the alpha receptors. It causes narrowing of the blood vessels in the eye which, in turn, causes a reduction in the aqueous humour, the liquid that fills the eye, and a subsequent drop in the eye pressure. This makes it effective in lowering the high pressure associated with glaucoma and for short-term lowering of pressure before or after laser treatment. In general, the 0.5% solution is used in the treatment of glaucoma and the 1% solution during the peri-operative period for laser surgery.

As with any medication, apraclonidine eye drops may be contraindicated in people with some underlying clinical conditions and may interact with other medications. These should all be discussed, including any homeopathic, over-the-counter and complementary preparations being taken, with the prescribing doctor before the drops are initiated. Pregnancy, desired pregnancy and lactation should also be disclosed.

While most people use apraclonidine drops without experiencing adverse effects, some may get unwanted side effects. Most commonly these may include local burning or stinging on instillation, dizziness, headache, altered taste sensation and dry mouth. Should any of these effects be severe, medical attention should be sought.

The prescribed apraclonidine dosage should never be exceeded. When used during laser surgery the 1% solution is usually instilled an hour before surgery and again on completion of surgery. In the treatment of glaucoma the 0.5% apraclonidine drops may be used up to three times a day. They are often used in addition to other glaucoma drops and, if so, there should be at least a five minute interval between instillation of the different preparations.

It is important to preserve the sterility of eye drops. Apraclonidine drops may come in single-dose dispensers, which are used once and discarded, or multi-dose bottles. It is important to store them as directed, in some cases in the fridge, and to discard them as stated in the package insert. They should be stored locked away out of reach of children.

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