A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Cancer treatment and vision problems

eye charts with purple cancer ribbonCan undergoing cancer treatment affect your vision? It may, says a Marshfield Clinic ophthalmologist.

“Some cancer drugs can affect your eyes,” said Dr. Daniel Wolner. “For patients receiving cancer therapies, their doctor will order special testing or more frequent eye exams to help prevent eye problems caused by the drugs or catch symptoms sooner.”

What’s common?

“Just about any existing eye problem you had before the cancer treatment started may get worse,” he said. Conditions like this would include dry eye, which may become more pronounced.

“But for diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration,” he said, “It’s uncommon for them to get worse. It’s also unlikely any existing distance vision problems will be affected or a sudden new condition will develop.”

A less common side effect

Radiation treatment around the face may affect eyelids.

“The eyelid can swell or become loose and not protect the eyeball as it should,” said Wolner. “This is not a common occurrence, but when it happens it’s treated by using an eye ointment.”

Healthy eyes feel good

Comfort may be your best guide for your eye health while undergoing cancer treatment.

“If you’re a contact lens wearer, you may find these to be uncomfortable because chemotherapy can be dehydrating,” said Wolner. “This can make contact lenses harder to tolerate because they need moisture to be comfortable.”

Sunglasses too, he said, can help keep you comfortable if bright sunlight or glare annoys you.

“Even when you’re reading, keep your eyes comfortable,” said Wolner. “My advice is to get a digital book reader or tablet computer that allows you to easily see and read without eye strain.”

Talk with your doctor if you’re concerned about your eye health while undergoing cancer treatment.  Learn more about your vision and the importance of dilated eye exams.

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