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Phenylephrine ophthalmic

Generic name: phenylephrine ophthalmic [ fen-ill-EFF-rin ]
Brand names: AK-Dilate, Altafrin, Mydfrin, Neofrin, Relief, ... show all 11 brands
Dosage form: ophthalmic solution (10%; 2.5%)
Drug classes: Mydriatics, Ophthalmic antihistamines and decongestants

Medically reviewed by on Mar 6, 2023. Written by Cerner Multum.

What is phenylephrine ophthalmic?

Phenylephrine is a decongestant that shrinks blood vessels.

Phenylephrine ophthalmic (for the eyes) is used to relieve eye redness, dryness, burning, and irritation caused by wind, sun, and other irritants.

Prescription-strength phenylephrine ophthalmic is used to constrict blood vessels in the eye and to dilate (make bigger) the pupil for conditions such as glaucoma, before surgery, and before eye examinations.

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

Phenylephrine ophthalmic side effects

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

Although the risk of serious side effects is low when phenylephrine ophthalmic is used in the eyes, side effects can occur if the medicine is absorbed into your bloodstream. Stop using phenylephrine ophthalmic and call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fast or irregular heart rate;

  • sweating, tremors;

  • pale skin, light-headed feeling;

  • severe headache, buzzing in your ears, anxiety, shortness of breath; or

  • chest pain or pressure, pain spreading to your jaw or shoulder.

Less serious side effects may be more likely, and you may have none at all.

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.


You should not use phenylephrine ophthalmic if you have narrow-angle glaucoma.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use phenylephrine ophthalmic if you are allergic to it, or if you have narrow-angle glaucoma.

Do not use phenylephrine ophthalmic without a doctor's advice if you have:

  • an eye infection;

  • an eye injury; or

  • if you have you have recently had eye surgery.

Any of the conditions above could cause your eyes to absorb phenylephrine ophthalmic into your body, which could lead to dangerous effects on the heart.

Ask a doctor or pharmacist if it is safe for you to use phenylephrine ophthalmic if you have other medical conditions, especially:

FDA pregnancy category C. It is not known whether phenylephrine ophthalmic will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant while using this medicine.

It is not known whether phenylephrine ophthalmic passes into breast milk or if it could harm a nursing baby. Tell your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

Do not give this medicine to a child without medical advice.

How should I use phenylephrine ophthalmic?

Use exactly as directed on the label, or as prescribed by your doctor. Do not use in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended.

Wash your hands before using the eye drops.

To apply the eye drops:

  • Tilt your head back slightly and pull down your lower eyelid to create a small pocket. Hold the dropper above the eye with the tip down. Look up and away from the dropper and squeeze out a drop.

  • Close your eyes for 2 or 3 minutes with your head tipped down, without blinking or squinting. Gently press your finger to the inside corner of the eye for 2 to 3 minutes, to keep the liquid from draining into your tear duct.

  • Use only the number of drops your doctor has prescribed, or as recommended on the medicine label. If you use more than one drop, wait about 5 minutes between drops.

  • Wait at least 10 minutes before using any other eye drops your doctor has prescribed.

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

Do not use the eye drops if the liquid has changed colors or has particles in it. Call your pharmacist for new medicine.

Your blood pressure may need to be checked while you are using phenylephrine ophthalmic.

Do not use this medicine for longer than 3 days. Call your doctor if your symptoms do not improve, or if they get worse while using phenylephrine ophthalmic.

Long-term use of phenylephrine ophthalmic may damage the blood vessels (veins and arteries) in the eyes.

Store at room temperature away from moisture, heat, and light. Keep the bottle tightly closed when not in use.

Phenylephrine ophthalmic dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Pupillary Dilation:

Apply 1 drop (2.5% or 10%) every 3 to 5 minutes to the conjunctival fornix as required up to a maximum of 3 drops per eye per day

-To obtain a greater degree of mydriasis, the 10% ophthalmic solution may be needed.

Use: To dilate pupils for diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.

Usual Pediatric Dose for Pupillary Dilation:

Less than 1 year:
-Apply 1 drop (2.5%) ophthalmic solution every 3 to 5 minutes to the conjunctival fornix as required up to a maximum of 3 drops per eye per day

1 year of older:
-Apply 1 drop (2.5% or 10%) every 3 to 5 minutes to the conjunctival fornix as required up to a maximum of 3 drops per eye per day

-Use of the 10% ophthalmic solution is contraindicated in patients less than 1 year of age due to the increased risk of systemic toxicity.
-To obtain a greater degree of mydriasis in patients 1 year or older, the 10% ophthalmic solution may be needed.

Use: To dilate pupils for diagnostic or therapeutic procedures.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Apply the missed dose as soon as you remember. Skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not use extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

An overdose of phenylephrine ophthalmic is not expected to be dangerous. Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222 if anyone has accidentally swallowed the medication.

What should I avoid while using phenylephrine ophthalmic?

Do not use phenylephrine ophthalmic while wearing contact lenses. Phenylephrine ophthalmic may contain a preservative that can discolor soft contact lenses. Wait at least 15 minutes after using this medicine before putting in your contact lenses.

This medicine may cause blurred vision and may impair your reactions. Be careful if you drive or do anything that requires you to be able to see clearly.

What other drugs will affect phenylephrine ophthalmic?

Tell your doctor if you have used an MAO inhibitor in the past 21 days. MAO inhibitors include isocarboxazid, linezolid, methylene blue injection, phenelzine, rasagiline, selegiline, tranylcypromine, and others.

Other drugs may interact with phenylephrine ophthalmic, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.

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.