If you are currently undergoing cancer treatments, then your doctor has probably already spoken to you about the negative side effects of the medications you need to take. Nausea, anemia, fatigue, dry mouth, and pain are a few examples. You may not know that cancer treatments can also affect your eyes in a profound way. Your eye doctor can help you with any condition that arises once you start chemotherapy, radiation, or steroid treatments. Listed below are a few of the most common eye problems that you may have difficulty with.
What Causes the Problem?
If you are going through radiation or chemotherapy treatments, then your oncologist may ask you to take steroids. Prednisone is one of the most common steroids that is prescribed to cancer patients and the medication is used to reduce inflammation and to relieve nausea. The steroid is also used to reduce your immune response and in some cases it can help boost your appetite.
Unfortunately, steroid use has been linked to the formation of cataracts. The type of cataract that can form when you take steroids is called a posterior subcapsular cataract. The cataract occurs when the proteins across the back side of your eye lens bunch together. This obscures vision and steroids cause the cataract by increasing the pressure within the eye. Cataracts can cause blind spots and blurry vision as well.
How is it Treated?
Cataracts can be treated in a number of ways, and your optometrist will likely prescribe glasses while you undergo all of your cancer treatments. The glasses will help you see better, but they will not treat your cataracts directly. Your eye doctor might also ask you to eat foods that may slow down the progression of the cataract formation. A diet high in vitamin C and Vitamin E have been shown to control cataract growths. Bell peppers, citrus fruits, peas, and kale are a good source of vitamin C, and sunflower seeds, tofu, almonds, and avocados are good foods for vitamin E intake.
After you complete your cancer treatments or once your vision has been affected severely by the cataracts, your eye doctor will speak to you about surgical options. Surgical cataract removal involves either the removal or the disintegration of the eye lens. After the old lens is removed, an artificial plastic lens is secured in your eye.
What Causes the Problem?
Conjunctivitis or pink eye is a fairly common bacterial or viral eye infection. The eye problem occurs when the tissues that cover the exterior of your eyeball swell and become discolored. This occurs when bacteria or a virus attack the eye. Your eyes will feel sore and burn when you have pink eye and they may also itch.
You are likely to contract pink eye when you are undergoing cancer treatments, because treatments used to destroy the cancer cells in your body also destroy healthy cells. In most cases, a great many of your white blood cells are destroyed and these cells help to fight off viruses and bacteria that enter your body. Your immune system is weak without these cells and you are likely to catch pink eye if you are around children or other adults who have the condition.
How is it Treated?
If you start to see signs of conjunctivitis or any other eye infection, then it is imperative that you see your eye doctor right away. Pink eye is not considered serious, but the simple infection can spread to your cornea. When this happens, your cornea can scar and your vision can be affected. In some cases, an abscess can form just outside your eye as well. These complications are more likely when your immune system is compromised and your body is unable to fight the bacteria in your eye on its own.
Your eye doctor will start you on a course of antibiotics immediately to treat the condition. The physician will likely give you antibiotic eye drops to treat the infection directly, but you may be asked to take an oral medication as well, because your body has already been exposed to the harmful bacteria. In some cases, your doctor may ask you to use steroidal eye drops too, to reduce the inflammation across your eye.
If you are undergoing cancer treatments, then you know that there are many side effects that you will likely experience. Your eyes may be affected along with the rest of your body. It is best to understand some of these problems so you can meet with an optometrist at places like Londonderry Eye Specialist right away so your vision is not permanently reduced once your cancer treatments stop.