Ocular Drug Delivery Systems & Medications

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over several ways by which drugs can be delivered to the eye, including topically, systemically, intravitreally, and intracamerally. You'll then learn the names and purposes of several of these drugs.

What Do We Mean By Ocular?

You are reading this text right now thanks to your oculi. 'Oculi' is the plural of oculus, which comes to us from the Latin for 'the eye'. Therefore, when you see 'ocular', you know it something to do with the eye. You'll see it especially in medical books, as the study of health and treatment of the eye has been around for ages.

So don't avert your eyes! This lesson deals with ocular drug delivery systems and medications.

Delivery Systems

There are actually quite a few systems by which drugs can be delivered to the eye and its various structures.

The best known way to deliver a drug to the eye is via topical administration, the placement of a medication on a particular area, locally. For the most part with this method, the effect of the drug is limited to a definite area.

Topical administration actually involves several possible delivery mechanisms with respect to the eye. Most commonly we think of eye drops as being the way by which drugs are delivered to the eye. Ever used Visine to sooth your eyes or get rid of the red color in the whites of your eyes?

Eye drops may themselves be in the form of:

  • A suspension - a liquid formulation that contains lots of tiny, dispersed, solid particles. Think of some sand mixed in water. That would be an example of a suspension. Of course, in medical suspensions the size of the undissolved particles is far smaller than grains of sand or else it would hurt the eye!

  • A solution - a homogeneous mixture where one or more substances are dissolved in another. Like a bit of sugar thoroughly mixed in warm water. That would be a solution because we wouldn't be able to tell where the water ends and the sugar begins, it's uniformly mixed.

  • An emulsion - a mixture of two normally immiscible liquids. In other words, two liquids that won't mix. Like putting oil into water.

Another well-known way of delivering a medication to the eye is through the use of an ointment. In other words, a creamy substance applied to the eye.

While topical administration is the most famous drug delivery method for the eye, there are plenty of other less common methods. Examples of these include:

  • Systemic or body-wide. In other words a medication is given, such as an oral drug or an injection into the vein, which is dispersed throughout the body but whose main focus is to treat the structures of the eye.
  • Intravitreal, or an injection of medication into the inside of the eye. If you could imagine the eye being like a balloon filled with a jelly-like fluid, then an intravitreal injection would be an injection into this inner jelly-like fluid part of the eye called the vitreous.
  • Intracameral, or delivery of the drug into a chamber of the eye, like the anterior chamber.


Like there are many drug delivery systems for the eye, there are even more numerous drugs that can be delivered to the eye. For example:

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