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Ganciclovir ophthalmic

Generic name: ganciclovir ophthalmic [ gan-SYE-klo-vir-off-THAL-mik ]
Brand names: Zirgan, Vitrasert
Dosage form: ophthalmic gel (0.15%)
Drug class: Ophthalmic anti-infectives

Medically reviewed by on Jun 30, 2021. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is ganciclovir?

Ganciclovir is an antiviral medicine.

Ganciclovir ophthalmic (for the eyes) is used to treat eye ulcers caused by herpes infection in adults and children at least 2 years old.

Ganciclovir ophthalmic is not a cure for herpes and will not treat symptoms of herpes in any other part of your body.

Ganciclovir ophthalmic may also be used for purposes not listed in this medication guide.


Use only as directed. Tell your doctor if you use other medicines or have other medical conditions or allergies.

Before taking this medicine

Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

ganciclovir ophthalmic should not be given to a child younger than 2 years old.

How should I use ganciclovir?

Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed.

Ganciclovir ophthalmic is usually applied about every 3 hours while you are awake (up to 5 times per day). Once the eye ulcer heals, the gel is usually applied 3 times per day for 7 days. Follow your doctor's dosing instructions very carefully.

Wash your hands before using eye medication.

To apply the eye gel: Pull down your lower eyelid to create a small pocket and squeeze a drop into this pocket. Close your eyes for 1 or 2 minutes.

Use only the prescribed number of drops.

Do not touch the dropper tip or place it directly on your eye. A contaminated dropper can infect your eye and lead to serious vision problems.

Ask your doctor before using contact lenses. Wearing them may increase your risk of repeated herpes infections or eye ulcers.

Do not wear contact lenses while you have an active eye ulcer or infection.

Ganciclovir does not cure herpes and your infection may come back. You may need frequent vision exams.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat. Do not freeze.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Use the medicine as soon as you can, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not use two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed the medicine.

What should I avoid while taking ganciclovir?

May cause blurred vision. Avoid driving or hazardous activity until you know how ganciclovir ophthalmic will affect you.

Avoid touching your eyes. Wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of infection.

Do not use other eye medications unless your doctor tells you to.

Ganciclovir side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Ganciclovir ophthalmic may cause serious side effects. Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • vision changes;

  • eye pain, burning, redness, or watering;

  • a gritty feeling, like something is in your eye; or

  • watery eyes, and your eyes may be more sensitive to light.

Common side effects of ganciclovir ophthalmic may include:

  • blurred vision;

  • eye irritation; or

  • redness, watering, sensitivity to light.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

Ganciclovir ophthalmic dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Herpes Simplex Dendritic Keratitis:

Instill 1 drop in the affected eye 5 times a day (about every 3 hours while awake) until corneal ulcer heals, and then 1 drop 3 times a day for 7 days.

Use: For the treatment of acute herpetic keratitis (dendritic ulcers)

Usual Pediatric Dose for Herpes Simplex Dendritic Keratitis:

2 years or older: Instill 1 drop in the affected eye 5 times a day (about every 3 hours while awake) until corneal ulcer heals, and then 1 drop 3 times a day for 7 days.

Use: For the treatment of acute herpetic keratitis (dendritic ulcers)

What other drugs will affect ganciclovir?

Medicine used in the eyes is not likely to be affected by other drugs you use. But many drugs can interact. Tell your doctor about all your current medicines, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.