U.S. eye experts issued an alert yesterday warning eye surgeons that
patients taking alpha-blocker drugs to treat an enlarged prostate
may have difficulty recovering from cataract surgery.
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The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of
Cataract and Refractive Surgery, and the American Urological
Association alerted applicants for cataract surgery that they need
to inform their doctors if they have taken Flomax, Hytrin, Cardura,
Uroxatral or other alpha-blocker drugs.
Dr. David F. Chang, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the
University of California, San Francisco, and researcher Dr. John
Campbell tracked 1,600 cataract surgery patients and found that
current or previous use of alpha-blockers -- especially Flomax --
apparently prevents the muscle of the iris (the colored part of the
eye) from keeping the pupil completely open during the surgery.
Dilation of the pupil is necessary for surgeons to
remove the cataract-affected lens properly.
"If we know that patients have ever used Flomax or the other
drugs, we can use different, longer-lasting dilation eye drops or
micro-hooks to keep the pupil completely dilated during surgery,"
Chang says. "Taking these measures, which eye surgeons normally
wouldn't use, will prevent potential problems and result in an
Alpha-blockers combat the need for patients with enlarged
prostate to urinate suddenly and frequently by controlling a
receptor in the prostate muscle. However, the same receptor controls
the dilation muscle in the iris and pupil, according to Chang.
have unintended side effects," said Mike Adams, a consumer health
advocate. "They may be sold to treat one specific condition, but the
truth is that these patented, synthetic chemicals are circulated
throughout the body and inevitably impact tissues and organs that
were never intended to be treated in the first place."
A spokeswoman for Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals -- which
makes Flomax -- says the company has sent letters to
ophthalmologists and eye surgeons about possible surgical
complications associated with the drug. In November 2005, the FDA
approved a change to the labels of alpha-blockers that warns
patients to "be prepared for possible modifications to their
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