Understanding Medications for the Ears and Eyes

By: Editors of Consumer Guide

Medications for the ears and eyes range from antibiotics for ear infections to beta blockers for glaucoma. Read on to discover more information about how ear and eye prescription drugs work.



For an ear infection, a physician usually prescribes an antibiotic drug and a steroid drug or a single medication that contains a combination of the two. The antibiotic attacks the infecting bacteria, and the steroid reduces the inflammation and pain from the infection. Often, a local anesthetic, such as benzocaine or lidocaine, may also be administered or prescribed to relieve pain.



Almost all drugs that are used to treat eye problems can be used to treat disorders of other parts of the body as well.

Glaucoma is one of the major disorders of the eye, causing increased pressure within the eyeball. It is of special concern to people older than 40 years of age. Although glaucoma is sometimes treated surgically, pressure in the eye can usually be reduced, and blindness prevented, through use of eyedrops. Frequently prescribed drugs for this purpose are timolol, betaxolol, dorzolamide, and latanoprost.

Timolol and betaxolol are beta-blocking drugs that work against glaucoma by decreasing the production of aqueous humor (fluid) in the eye. Unless they have a history of heart failure or asthma, most patients with glaucoma can use a beta blocker. Beta-blocking drugs account for most of the glaucoma medications sold. Dorzolamide is known as a carbonic anhydrate inhibitor, which works differently than the beta blockers to decrease the amount of fluid the eye produces. Sometimes, a beta blocker and a carbonic anhydrate inhibitor will be combined in a single drug product. Latanoprost is a prostaglandin analogue that works to treat glaucoma by increasing the outflow of fluid from the eye.

Eyedrops containing steroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to treat noninfectious eye inflammations as long as they are not used for an extended period of time. Pharmacists carefully monitor refill requests for eyedrops, particularly if the drops contain steroids. They may refuse to refill such prescriptions until you have revisited your doctor. Such caution is necessary because with long-term use, these products can cause additional eye problems. Topical antibiotic medications are also used to treat bacterial eye infections. Other types of eyedrops are sometimes prescribed for the treatment of eye infections, itchy eyes associated with allergies, or redness due to minor eye irritation.