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Why Are Benzodiazepines Contraindicated in Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

Mark Halsey
Chief Editor of - Cleanbreak Recovery

Mark Halsey is a licensed therapist, founder, and chief editor of Clean Break Recovery. With over a decade of addiction treatment experience, Mark deeply understands...Read more

The use of benzodiazepines is a common treatment for a variety of mental health and medical conditions. However, there are certain medical conditions which can pose a risk when using benzodiazepines, and narrow angle glaucoma is one of them. In this article, we’ll explore why benzodiazepines are contraindicated in narrow angle glaucoma, and the risks associated with their use in this condition.

Why Are Benzodiazepines Contraindicated in Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

What is Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

Narrow angle glaucoma is an eye disorder in which the drainage angle of the eye is blocked. This blockage can cause a sudden increase in the pressure in the eye, leading to damage of the optic nerve. Narrow angle glaucoma is a serious condition that can cause permanent vision loss and blindness if left untreated.

The drainage angle of the eye is located between the iris and the cornea. In narrow angle glaucoma, the angle between the iris and cornea is too narrow, which can cause the fluid buildup that leads to high eye pressure. This condition is more common in people with certain eye structures, as well as people with certain medical conditions.

The primary symptom of narrow angle glaucoma is eye pain. This pain is usually accompanied by redness and blurred vision. If left untreated, this condition can cause permanent vision loss. Therefore, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible if any of these symptoms are present.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of drugs that are commonly used to treat anxiety, sleep disorders, and seizures. They act on the central nervous system to produce a calming effect. Common benzodiazepines include diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), and lorazepam (Ativan).

Benzodiazepines are typically prescribed for short-term use. These drugs can be habit-forming and can cause physical dependence when used for long-term. Therefore, it is important to use these drugs only as prescribed and never to take more than the recommended dose.

Benzodiazepines are also used to treat alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms, and nausea and vomiting. They may also be used to help with insomnia and as a sedative prior to medical procedures.

Why Are Benzodiazepines Contraindicated in Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

Benzodiazepines are contraindicated in narrow angle glaucoma because they can increase the pressure in the eye. Benzodiazepines work by increasing the activity of the neurotransmitter GABA, which can cause the pupil to constrict. When the pupil constricts, it can narrow the drainage angle of the eye, leading to a buildup of fluid and resulting in an increase in eye pressure.

Benzodiazepines can also cause drowsiness, which can lead to blurred vision. This blurred vision can make it difficult to detect the early signs of glaucoma and can delay treatment.

Interactions with Other Drugs

Benzodiazepines may interact with other medications, increasing the risk of side effects. For example, the antihistamine diphenhydramine can interact with benzodiazepines, leading to an increased risk of drowsiness. This drowsiness can worsen the symptoms of narrow angle glaucoma.

Additionally, benzodiazepines can interact with other medications such as anticonvulsants, sedatives, and antidepressants. It is important to tell your doctor about all medications you are taking to avoid potential interactions.

Risk of Addiction

Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming, and long-term use can lead to physical dependence and addiction. People with narrow angle glaucoma are especially at risk for addiction because they may be more likely to take higher doses in an attempt to reduce their symptoms.

Additionally, benzodiazepines can lead to impaired judgment and decreased coordination, which can make it difficult to drive or operate machinery. These side effects can be dangerous for people with narrow angle glaucoma, as they could lead to severe injury or even death.

Alternative Treatments

There are several alternative treatments for narrow angle glaucoma that do not involve benzodiazepines. These treatments include medications such as beta blockers, prostaglandin analogs, and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Additionally, laser surgery and other surgical procedures can be used to treat this condition.

If you have narrow angle glaucoma, it is important to speak with your doctor about the best treatment option for you. Your doctor can help you determine the best course of action to reduce your symptoms and prevent further damage to your vision.

Top 6 Frequently Asked Questions

What is Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

Narrow angle glaucoma is a type of glaucoma where the front of the eye is too small for the iris to rest comfortably against the cornea, creating a narrow angle between them. This can cause the eye to produce increased pressure, resulting in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss. Narrow angle glaucoma is also known as angle-closure glaucoma or acute angle-closure glaucoma.

What are Benzodiazepines?

Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that are used to treat anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and muscle spasms. They act on the central nervous system to produce a calming effect. Common benzodiazepines include alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan).

Why Are Benzodiazepines Contraindicated in Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

Benzodiazepines are contraindicated in narrow angle glaucoma due to their potential to cause further pressure build up in the eye. Benzodiazepines can cause the pupil to dilate, which can reduce the angle between the iris and the cornea and lead to increased pressure in the eye. This can further damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.

What are the Alternatives to Benzodiazepines for Treating Anxiety?

There are several alternatives to benzodiazepines for treating anxiety, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exercise, relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and certain medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

What are the Symptoms of Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

The symptoms of narrow angle glaucoma can vary and may include eye pain, redness, headaches, blurred vision, halos around lights, nausea, and vomiting. It is important to seek medical help if any of these symptoms are present.

What is the Treatment for Narrow Angle Glaucoma?

The treatment for narrow angle glaucoma depends on the severity of the condition, but usually involves the use of medications such as beta blockers, prostaglandin analogs, or carbonic anhydrase inhibitors. Surgery may also be an option in some cases. It is important to speak to an ophthalmologist to determine the best treatment option.

2-Minute Neuroscience: Benzodiazepines

In conclusion, benzodiazepines are contraindicated in narrow angle glaucoma because they can increase the pressure in the eye, which can worsen the condition and potentially cause serious damage to the optic nerve. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of taking benzodiazepines with your healthcare provider if you have narrow angle glaucoma or are at risk of developing it.

Mark Halsey is a licensed therapist, founder, and chief editor of Clean Break Recovery. With over a decade of addiction treatment experience, Mark deeply understands the complex needs of those struggling with addiction and utilizes a comprehensive and holistic approach to address them. He is well-versed in traditional and innovative therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and mindfulness-based interventions.

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