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Hyperosmotics for Glaucoma


Generic NameBrand Name
glycerin (glycerol)Osmoglyn, Osmitrol, Ureaphil
mannitolOsmoglyn, Osmitrol, Ureaphil
ureaOsmoglyn, Osmitrol, Ureaphil

These medicines are used in liquid form or given through a needle into a vein (intravenous).

How It Works

Hyperosmotics draw water out of the fluid (aqueous humor) inside the eyes, decreasing the amount of fluid inside the eyes.

Why It Is Used

Hyperosmotics are usually used in emergencies to rapidly reduce pressure in the eyes, most often during episodes of closed-angle glaucoma. These medicines can also be used to lower the pressure in the eyes before or after glaucoma surgery.

How Well It Works

These medicines dry out the eye by changing the chemical balance in the bloodstream, causing water to be drawn out of the eye. Decreasing the fluid in the eye results in decreased pressure in the eye. But this effect does not last long.

Side Effects

Possible serious side effects of hyperosmotic medicines include:

  • Heart failure.
  • Bleeding within the brain.
  • Impaired kidney function.

Less serious side effects include:

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

What To Think About

Glycerin by mouth should be used cautiously in people who have diabetes, because it can raise blood sugar levels.

These medicines are not used for long-term treatment of glaucoma. They are used in emergency situations when pressure in the eyes needs to be reduced rapidly. Because these medicines have serious side effects, people are monitored closely while they are being treated with these medicines.

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


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerChristopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last RevisedMay 5, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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