Did you know that some cancer treatments can cause eye and vision problems? It’s a side effect that can be triggered by radiation therapy near the eyes (Head and Neck procedures), chemotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy or allogeneic stem cell transplants.
While eye and vision problems can be treated and managed, in some cases they may progress to more serious conditions, such as cataracts, which is the clouding of the eye lens that can decrease vision.
Symptoms of eye or vision problems that cancer patients may experience include:
Blurry or cloudy vision
Watery or dry eyes
Severe eye pain
Sensitivity to light
Trouble seeing in the dark and at night time
Chemotherapy can suppress the immune system and make cancer patients more susceptible to infection, including conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. Some chemo-therapies can also cause cataracts, dry or watery eyes, and sensitivity to light. Targeted therapy can cause dry or red eyes, as well as swollen and inflamed eye lids. People with eye, brain or head and neck cancers who are undergoing radiation therapy near the eyes may experience chronic dry eyes, cataracts, and retinal and optic nerve problems.
Leukemia or lymphoma patients who undergo allogeneic stem cell transplants can develop ocular graft versus host disease, which occurs when the donor's immune cells mistakenly attack the patient's normal cells. Patients with graft versus host disease typically experience dry eyes, blurred vision or persistent irritation.
Talk to your oncologist about any symptoms of eye or vision problems you may be experiencing. It’s also a good idea to see an ophthalmologist for an evaluation.
During cancer treatment, follow these simple steps to prevent or relieve some eye symptoms:
Use over-the-counter artificial tears to keep your eyes hydrated.
Do not wear contact lenses during treatment because they can cause eye infections.
Clean your eyelids with baby shampoo and warm water.
Apply a warm washcloth to your eyelids to reduce inflammation.
Remember to get your eyes checked regularly. If you have recently been diagnosed with cancer and haven’t started treatment, schedule an eye examination. It can help your eye doctor establish a baseline so he or she can track over time whether your eyes and vision are potentially affected by cancer treatment.