What Are the Medical Uses of Prostaglandins?

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  • Written By: Maggie J. Hall
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Prostaglandins effects on smooth muscle enable the hormone’s use for the treatment of glaucoma and certain ischemic disorders. Comprised of unsaturated fatty acids, prostaglandins regulate ion flow at a cellular level and may be used as a labor induction agent. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDS) drugs typically act as prostaglandin antagonists to reduce fever, inflammation and pain. These actions also frequently produce gastrointestinal disorders. Using prostaglandins concomitantly with NSAIDS reduces possible gastric adverse reactions.

Travaprost belongs to a group of medications known as prostaglandin analogues, which mimic the effects of the lipid compounds. The medication is generally prescribed to counteract the intraocular pressure commonly associated with open angle glaucoma. Prostaglandin analogues, in the formulation, effectively increase uveoscleral outflow, decreasing pressure. When administered intravenously, individuals suffering from ischemic disorders, which include Reynaud’s syndrome, experience fewer and less frequent attacks. The vasodilatation effects, produced by smooth muscle relaxation of prostaglandins, increase blood flow and reduce symptoms associated with ischemia.

Physicians may use PGE1 or alprostadil for maintaining the opening of the ductus arteriosis in infants diagnosed with these heart related conditions until surgical intervention. The ductus generally allows blood flow from the pulmonary artery to bypass the lungs and travel back to the aorta in unborn infants. This valve normally closes shortly after birth, but may produce stress in infants suffering cardiac or pulmonary anomalies. Maintaining this opening reduces cardiac workload and bypasses defective vessels.


Men experiencing erectile dysfunction may also receive prescriptions for Alprostadil. As the medication typically relaxes arterial smooth muscles, blood flow to the penis increases. With adequate or increased blood flow, men generally achieve erection. The medication may be injected directly into the penile cavernosa or inserted in pellet form into the urethral opening.

Administered vaginally in gel or suppository form, the medication dinoprostone typically induces labor. Prostaglandin hormones, known as PGE2, relax the smooth muscle fibers of the uterus, which ripens the cervix by causing dilation and thinning. The preparation also usually initiates uterine contractions. Obstetric physicians may also use PGE2 after delivery to maintain uterine tone. When the uterus loses tone or the ability to properly contract, blood flow increases, which may cause hemorrhage.

NSAIDs generally inhibit the effects of prostaglandins. Some of these effects normally protect the sensitive lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Minus these protective qualities, ulceration may occur. Misoprostol is a prostaglandin analog that increases bicarbonate and mucus production. Increased mucosal protection decreases the likelihood of internal injury from NSAIDS.


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