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I'm allergic to my eye drops. Is this common?

Few people are allergic to their actual medication. It is far more common to be allergic to the medication’s preservative, which is called benzalkonium chloride.

An allergic reaction to the preservative may include a red, irritated, or itchy eye. Sometimes allergic reactions cause tearing or eyelid swelling. Some medications, including Timoptic XE, Alphagan P and Travatan Z use a different preservative. Alphagan P uses Purite, a Stabilized Oxychloro Complex (SOC) preservative and Travatan Z uses SofZia which is a robust ionic buffered preservative that is gentle to the ocular surface.

Some pharmaceutical companies also produce their eyedrops in small doses that are preservative free. They need to be refrigerated and they usually cost more than the standard eye drops. Your local pharmacy can usually order it for you.

In February 2012, ZIOPTAN™ (tafluprost ophthalmic solution) 0.0015% was approved by the FDA as the first preservative-free prostaglandin analog glaucoma medication.

Allergies to actual medication may also occur. Whether you are allergic to the drug or to the preservative, switching to another glaucoma medication may be the only way to avoid intolerable discomfort. Working with your eye doctor to find a medication you can take safely with minimal reaction may take some time and effort but is usually worth it in the long run.

Last reviewed on November 08, 2012

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