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Central Retinal Artery Occlusion Medication

  • Author: Robert H Graham, MD; Chief Editor: Hampton Roy, Sr, MD  more...
Updated: Aug 12, 2015

Medication Summary

Medical therapy is directed toward lowering IOP, increasing retinal perfusion, and increasing oxygen delivery to hypoxic tissues. The first goal is accomplished by using the same drugs as those used in glaucoma. Retinal perfusion may be increased by vasodilatory drugs although this is unproven, increasing arterial pCO2, or by giving intravascular thrombolytics to remove the offending embolus. Some also advocate aspirin use in the acute phase. Oxygen delivery is improved by breathing higher concentrations of oxygen or with hyperbaric oxygen.


Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors

Class Summary

Carbonic anhydrase is an enzyme found in many tissues of the body, including the eye. The reversible reaction it catalyzes involves the hydration of carbon dioxide and the dehydration of carbonic acid.

Acetazolamide (Diamox)


Reduces rate of aqueous humor formation by inhibiting enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which results in decreased IOP. Used most frequently as single diuretic agent in acute management of CRAO. Other diuretics may be added if sufficient decrease in IOP is not attained.

Dorzolamide (Trusopt)


Used concomitantly with other topical ophthalmic drug products to lower IOP. If more than one ophthalmic drug is being used, administer the drugs at least 10 min apart. Reversibly inhibits carbonic anhydrase, reducing hydrogen ion secretion at renal tubule and increases renal excretion of sodium, potassium bicarbonate, and water to decrease production of aqueous humor.


Hyperosmotic diuretics

Class Summary

Lower IOP by creating an osmotic gradient between the ocular fluids and plasma (not for long-term use). Hemoconcentration is potentially an issue with this form of therapy.

Mannitol (Osmitrol)


Reduces elevated IOP when the pressure cannot be lowered by other means. Initially assess for adequate renal function in adults by administering a test dose of 200 mg/kg, given IV over 3-5 min. It should produce a urine flow of at least 30-50 mL/h of urine over 2-3 h. In children, assess for adequate renal function by administering a test dose of 200 mg/kg, given IV over 3-5 min. It should produce a urine flow of at least 1 mL/h over 1-3 h.



Used in glaucoma to interrupt acute attacks. Oral osmotic agent for reducing IOP. Able to increase tonicity of blood until finally metabolized and eliminated by the kidneys. Maximum reduction of IOP usually occurs 1 h after glycerin administration. Effect usually lasts approximately 5 h.



Class Summary

Lower IOP mainly by increasing outflow and reducing the production of aqueous humor. The combination of a miotic and a sympathomimetic has additive effects in lowering IOP. Each may be added in rotation after a 5-minute interval, until target IOP is reached.

Apraclonidine (Iopidine)


Reduces elevated, as well as normal, IOP whether or not accompanied by glaucoma. Apraclonidine is a relatively selective alpha-adrenergic agonist that does not have significant local anesthetic activity. Has minimal cardiovascular effects.

Dipivefrin (AKPro, Propine)


Converted to epinephrine in eye by enzymatic hydrolysis. Appears to act by decreasing aqueous production and enhancing outflow facility. Has same therapeutic effect as epinephrine with fewer local and systemic side effects. May be used as an initial therapy or as an adjunct with other antiglaucoma agents for the control of IOP.


Beta-adrenergic blocking agents

Class Summary

Lower IOP by decreasing the rate of aqueous humor production and possibly outflow. They may be more effective than either pilocarpine or epinephrine alone and have the advantage of not affecting pupil size or accommodation.

Timolol ophthalmic (Timoptic)


May reduce elevated and normal IOP, with or without glaucoma by reducing the production of aqueous humor or by outflow.



Class Summary

Used in arterial occlusion only when temporal arteritis (GCA) is the suspected or confirmed etiology.

Prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone, Meticorten)


Useful in the treatment of inflammatory and allergic reactions. May decrease inflammation by reversing increased capillary permeability and suppressing polymorphonuclear lymphocyte activity.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Robert H Graham, MD Consultant, Department of Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona

Robert H Graham, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, Arizona Ophthalmological Society, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Partner received salary from Medscape/WebMD for employment.


Shehab A Ebrahim, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, Tulane University; Vitreoretinal Surgeon, The Retina Institute, LLC

Shehab A Ebrahim, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Medical Association, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, American Society of Retina Specialists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Steve Charles, MD Director of Charles Retina Institute; Clinical Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Tennessee College of Medicine

Steve Charles, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Society of Retina Specialists, Macula Society, Retina Society, Club Jules Gonin

Disclosure: Received royalty and consulting fees for: Alcon Laboratories.

Chief Editor

Hampton Roy, Sr, MD Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Hampton Roy, Sr, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American College of Surgeons, Pan-American Association of Ophthalmology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

V Al Pakalnis, MD, PhD Professor of Ophthalmology, University of South Carolina School of Medicine; Chief of Ophthalmology, Dorn Veterans Affairs Medical Center

V Al Pakalnis, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Ophthalmology, American College of Surgeons, South Carolina Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous coauthors, Enoch Huang, MD, MPH, and DooHo Brian Kim, BA, to the development and writing of this article.

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