What Is Cyclosporine Ophthalmic?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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A drug called an immunomodulator, cyclosporine ophthalmic is a liquid dropped into the eye that increases the body's natural production of tears. It is mainly prescribed to patients with a dry eye disease called Keratoconjunctivitis sicca. These go beyond over-the-counter artificial moisturizers by lessening inflammation of the tear ducts to stimulate more tear production.

A suspected result of hormonal changes, dry eye syndrome happens to women more than men. It occurs in both sexes, however, particularly as they age or if they smoke. Prescribing cyclosporine ophthalmic, marketed as Restasis® or Allergan®, will not cure this disease, but it can severely reduce the effects.

Patients with keratoconjunctivitis sicca will experience chronically dry, itchy and even painfully stinging eyes as a result of a lack of proper lubrication. Without proper lubrication, the body's natural enzymes are not distributed across the eyes, which can lead to an increase in invading bacteria. These can cause an increase in pain and swelling.

Some other diseases and prescription treatments can cause dry eyes. Doctors often prescribe cyclosporine ophthalmic to patients suffering from chronic arthritis, lupus and the disease known as ocular rosacea. The last condition involves one or both of the previous two as well as dry eyes and a dry mouth.


Using cyclosporine ophthalmic requires a sterile process. Washing the hands thoroughly with antibacterial soap is imperative before each treatment. The bottle should be shaken to fully mix the cyclosporine ophthalmic solution, and then a single drop is added to each lower eyelid with the head tilted backward. Though the frequency may vary depending on the treatment, most doctors recommend two treatments a day.

Users of contact lenses are advised to remove them before applying these drops. They should not reinsert the lens for at least 15 minutes after using the drops. This will allow the compound sufficient time to fully absorb into the tear ducts and the eyes to fully lubricate.

Many use over-the-counter artificial tears to supplement these treatments throughout the day. Minor side effects like discharge, reddening, excessive tearing, stinging and blurred vision are possible, though major side effects have not been recorded. As of 2011, however, the US Food and Drug Administration has not confirmed that cyclosporine ophthalmic does not pose a risk to pregnant or nursing mothers and their babies. An alternative treatment may be used for this group of patients, such as a prescription-strength artificial tears along with air-locking sunglasses or even a small plug, called a Lacrisert®, which gradually releases lubricant.


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