Beta-Blockers for Glaucoma

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Beta-Blockers for Glaucoma


Generic NameBrand Name
levobunololAK-Beta, Betagan
timololBetimol, Istalol, Timoptic

These medicines are given in eyedrop form. Beta-blocker eyedrops have yellow or blue bottle caps. If you need to use more than one type of eyedrop, you may need to take each medicine in a certain order. You can use the color of the bottle cap to help you keep track of each type of eyedrop.

If you are using more than one type of eyedrop, wait 5 minutes between the different eyedrop medicines.

How It Works

Beta-blockers lower the pressure inside the eye by reducing how much fluid (aqueous humor) is produced in the eye. Reducing pressure in the eyes helps slow optic nerve damage, decreasing the rate of vision loss.

Why It Is Used

Beta-blockers may be used alone or combined with other glaucoma medicines. A combination of medicines can help control how much fluid is made in the eye and can also increase the amount of fluid that drains out of the eye.

How Well It Works

Beta-blocker eyedrops work well to reduce how much fluid is made in the eye. They lower the pressure inside the eyes by about 25%.1

These medicines may continue to lower pressure in the eyes over several weeks before a stable level is reached.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Stinging, aching, or redness in the eyes after using drops.
  • A slower heartbeat.
  • Headache.
  • Feeling tired, dizzy, off-balance, confused, or depressed.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

Beta-blockers are more likely to cause side effects in older adults and in people who have severe lung or heart problems.

Beta-blockers do not affect pupil size or focusing that is needed to read printed material at close range. Some other medicines used to treat glaucoma (cholinergics, like pilocarpine) do affect pupil size.

Your doctor may suggest Combigan or Cosopt for you. These medicines have a beta-blocker and another type of glaucoma medicine mixed into one bottle. Combigan contains timolol and brimonidine. Cosopt contains timolol and dorzolamide.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

If you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant, do not use any medicines unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines can harm your baby. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and supplements. And make sure that all your doctors know that you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Abramowicz M (2010). Drugs for some common eye disorders. Treatment Guidelines From The Medical Letter, 9(99): 1–8.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerChristopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last RevisedMay 14, 2012

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