Dexamethasone eye drops for inflammation

  • Dexamethasone eye drops are usually prescribed by an eye specialist.
  • Use the drops every 30-60 minutes until your symptoms are controlled, and then 4-6 times a day for a few days.
  • Do not use dexamethasone for longer than a week.
Type of medicineCorticosteroid eye drops
Used forTo treat eye inflammation
Also calledMaxidex®, Minims® Dexamethasone
Available asEye drops, and single-use units

Dexamethasone eye drops are used to treat short-term inflammatory eye conditions and are usually prescribed by an eye specialist. The drops contain a corticosteroid (sometimes called a 'steroid') which helps relieve inflammation, redness and irritation.

Some dexamethasone eye drops also contain an anti-infective agent which is used to prevent infections developing, usually following eye surgery. 

To make sure this is the right treatment for you, before you start using dexamethasone it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to any eye drops or other medicine.
  • If you think you may have an eye infection.
  • If you wear soft contact lenses.
  • If you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines, including those available to buy without a prescription, herbal and complementary medicines.
  • First wash your hands.
  • Remove the cap (or the tip of the unit if you are using a single-use unit).
  • Tilt your head back a little and pull the lower lid of your eye downwards to form a pocket.
  • Hold the bottle (or single-use unit) upside down near to your eye. Try not to touch your eye as you do this.
  • Apply enough pressure to release one drop into your eye.
  • Close your eye for a minute or two, and press gently on the side of your nose where the corner of your eye meets your nose. This helps to stop the drop from draining away and keeps it in your eye.
  • Repeat the process in your other eye if you have been told to use the drops in both eyes.
  • Replace the cap (or if you are using the single-use unit, throw it away).
  • Before you use these eye drops, read the manufacturer's printed information leaflet from the pack. The leaflet will give you more information about dexamethasone and a full list of possible side-effects from using the drops.
  • Use dexamethasone eye drops exactly as your doctor has told you to. Unless you have been told otherwise, use the drops every 30-60 minutes (while you are awake) on the first two days until your symptoms are controlled, and then 4-6 times a day for the next few days.
  • Dexamethasone eye drops are only meant to be used for a short period of time. Do not use them for longer than one week unless your doctor advises you otherwise. This is because they can cause problems within your eye when used for longer than recommended.
  • Take care not to touch the tip of the dropper with your eye, fingers, or any other surface. This will help to prevent the risk of infection.
  • When first put in, these eye drops may cause blurred vision. This should quickly clear, but make sure you can see properly before you drive, as otherwise you may put yourself and others at risk.
  • If you are using any other eye drops or ointments, leave about ten minutes between applying each one.
  • If your symptoms do not improve within a few days, or if they become worse, check with your doctor.
  • Do not wear soft contact lenses while you are using dexamethasone eye drops unless your doctor has advised you otherwise. This is because there is a preservative in bottles of eye drops which may affect soft contact lenses.

Along with their useful effects, most medicines can cause unwanted side-effects although not everyone experiences them. These usually improve as your body adjusts to the eye drops, but speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any of the following side-effects continue or become troublesome.

Common dexamethasone eye drop side-effects - these affect less than 1 in 10 peopleWhat can I do if I experience this?
Mild irritation or stinging of the eyeThis should soon disappear as your eyes get used to the drops. If the discomfort continues, speak with your doctor
Blurred visionThis usually disappears within a few minutes of putting in the drops. Do not drive or use machinery unless your vision is clear
Increased pressure in your eyeYou may need the pressure in your eye checking regularly - your eye specialist will advise you about this

If you experience any other symptoms which you think may be due to these eye drops, discuss them with your doctor or pharmacist.

  • Keep all medicines out of the reach and sight of children.
  • Store in a cool, dry place, away from direct heat and light.
  • Eye drops only keep for four weeks once the bottle has been opened, so throw away the bottle after this time, even if there is some solution left. Never keep opened bottles of eye drops to use later. This will help to prevent the risk of eye infections.
  • Single-use units should be used immediately the unit is opened. Do not store or re-use opened units for subsequent doses. This is because the units do not contain any preservative.
  • Never use more than the prescribed dose. If you suspect that someone has swallowed some of this medicine, go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital. Take the container with you, even if it is empty.
  • This medicine is for you. Never give it to other people even if their condition appears to be the same as yours.
  • If you are having an operation or dental treatment, tell the person carrying out the treatment which medicines you are using.
  • Never keep out-of-date or unwanted medicines. Take them to your local pharmacy which will dispose of them for you.
  • If you buy any medicines, check with a pharmacist that they are safe to use with your other medicines.
  • If you have any questions about this medicine ask your pharmacist.

Further reading & references

  • British National Formulary; 63rd Edition (Mar 2012) British Medical Association and Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, London
  • Manufacturer's PIL, Maxidex®; Manufacturer's PIL, Maxidex®, Alcon Laboratories (U.K) Limited, The electronic Medicines Compendium. Dated September 2010.

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. EMIS has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.

Original Author:
Helen Allen
Current Version:
Peer Reviewer:
Dr John Cox
Document ID:
3650 (v23)
Last Checked:
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