People living with cancer can experience eye and/or vision changes during cancer treatment. This side effect can be distressing but there are many ways to help you cope with this treatment side effect.

Eye or Vision Changes May Include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Difficulty seeing in the dark
  • Redness
  • Discharge
  • Distorted eyelids
  • Colors may appear differently

Managing Eye and Vision Changes During Cancer Treatment

Ask questions. Before starting treatment, it may be helpful to ask your doctor the following questions:

  • Should I use eye drops or artificial tears to relieve any dryness?
  • Are glasses preferred during treatment instead of contact lenses?
  • How long can eye and vision issue last?
  • Should I see my eye doctor during treatment? Is so, how often?
  • If I’m sensitive to light and have trouble seeing in the dark, when should I make my appointments?

Talk to your health care team. It is important to talk with your doctor about any changes in your vision or eyes. If you can, try keeping a journal tracking the timing and severity of any changes to see if there are any patterns to report to your doctor. Some of the things you may want to write down in your journal include:

  • The date and time you experience vision or eye changes
  • How long it lasts
  • How strong it is—for example, if you experience pain, how strong is it on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least amount of pain and 10 the most intense?
  • How your daily activities are affected—did these changes keep you from sleeping, eating, walking, working or exercising?

Ask for help. Your family members and friends will likely be an invaluable source of support at this time. If you’re sensitive to light and are not comfortable driving, ask friends and family members to take turns driving you to appointments.

Talk to an oncology social worker. Oncology social workers provide emotional support for people with cancer and their loved ones. These professionals can help you cope with the challenges of a cancer diagnosis and guide you to resources. CancerCare offers free counseling from professional oncology social workers who understand the challenges faced by people with cancer and their caregivers. We can work with you one-on-one to develop strategies for coping with treatment and its side effects.

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This fact sheet was made possible by a grant from the Allene Reuss Memorial Trust.

Last updated May 25, 2016

The information presented in this publication is provided for your general information only. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultations with qualified health professionals who are aware of your specific situation. We encourage you to take information and questions back to your individual health care provider as a way of creating a dialogue and partnership about your cancer and your treatment.

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