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What is Pilocarpine?

By Dulce Corazon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pilocarpine, a cholinergic agonist, is a medication generally prescribed in patients experiencing mouth dryness due to Sjogren's syndrome. Sjogren's syndrome is a disorder that causes the immune system to produce antibodies or cells that attack body tissues, often resulting in dry eyes and dry mouth. This drug is also used to relieve dry mouth that frequently occurs during radiotherapy for treatment of neck cancer and head cancer. As a cholinergic agonist, pilocarpine mostly stimulates nerves in the body to bring about increased salivation, thus giving relief to dry mouth and making it easier for patients to swallow and talk.

Dosage of pilocarpine usually depends on the symptoms and the overall health of patients. Doctors may instruct them to take the medication by mouth three to four times daily, or, if they have any liver disorder, just two tablets each day. It is also important to take this medication as instructed by doctors and not to stop or increase the dose without informing them. Many medications come with additional information and it is often important for patients to read this. They should also ask for assistance when they do not understand some issues regarding their condition and treatment.

Side effects of pilocarpine may occur. These include dizziness, headache, diarrhea, and heartburn. Heartburn is the indigestion of acid and causes a burning sensation in the chest. One common reaction of patients to pilocarpine is excessive sweating. Patients are often advised to drink enough water to avoid dehydration.

A similar medication called called pilocarpine ophthalmic is usually given as an eye drop or eye gel to glaucoma patients. Glaucoma occurs when there is increased pressure inside the eyes. If not treated, it can result in vision loss. Symptoms of glaucoma, like hazy vision and eye pain, are frequently relieved by pilocarpine ophthalmic. Side effects associated with this eye medicine include stinging and burning in the eye, and headache. If these symptoms do not go away, the doctor should be informed about them.

Those who are using pilocarpine, either in tablet or eye drop form, are often advised to inform their doctor if pregnancy occurs or if they are planning on becoming pregnant. It is also important for patients to let their doctor know of any other medicines and supplements they are taking, as these can impact the effectiveness of the medicine. Some of these drugs may also worsen the side effects in patients.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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