Update on the role of alpha-agonists in glaucoma management

Stella Arthur, Louis B. Cantor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

44 Scopus citations


Glaucoma is the second most common cause of world blindness (following cataract) with estimated cases reaching 79.6 million by 2020. Although the etiology of glaucoma is multi-factorial, intraocular pressure (IOP) is the only modifiable factor in glaucoma management proven to alter the natural course of the disease. Among various classes of IOP-lowering medications currently available, alpha-adrenergic receptor agonists are used either as monotherapy, as second-line therapy, or in fixed combination with beta-blockers. Non-selective adrenergic agonists such as epinephrine and dipivefrin are infrequently used today for the treatment of glaucoma or ocular hypertension, and have been replaced by the alpha-2-selective agonists. The use of apraclonidine for IOP reduction in glaucoma or OHT is limited due to a high rate of follicular conjunctivitis. The alpha-2-selective agonist in use today is brimonidine. The brimonidine-purite formulations are preferred to brimonidine-benzalkonium chloride (BAC) formulations due better tolerability while maintaining similar efficacy. Brimonidine is also effective when used in combination with a beta-blocker. Using brimonidine-timolol fixed combination (BTFC) as first-line therapy has an added potential for neuroprotection. This would be a valuable strategy for glaucoma treatment, for patients who are intolerant of prostaglandin analogs, or for patients where prostaglandin analogues are contraindicated as first-line therapy, such as in patients with inflammatory glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)271-283
Number of pages13
JournalExperimental eye research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2011


  • Alpha-agonists
  • Compliance and cost of alpha-agonists
  • Fixed combinations
  • Glaucoma
  • Monotherapy
  • Neuroprotection
  • Ocular blood flow
  • Safety and efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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