Five Ways to Protect Your Vision from Medications

Five Ways to Protect Your Vision from Medications

Posted on Sep.11, 2015, under Eye Conditions, Eye Health, Low Vision Info, Low Vision Tips

My father-in-law who has wet macular degeneration was recently put on a new prescription medication.   Within 24 hours of starting his new medication he could tell a stark difference in his vision which had become severely blurred.  Thankfully it scared him and he contacted his doctor who instructed my father-in- law to stop taking the drug.

There are many prescriptions, over the counter medications and even some supplements that can cause temporary vision changes or more severe permanent damage to the eye.  As people age the number of prescription drug use increases.  According to the Georgetown University   Health Policy Institute, “Three-quarters of those age 50 to 64 use prescription drugs, compared to 91 percent of those age 80 and older. The average number of prescriptions filled also increases with age, from 13 for those age 50 to 64 to 22 for those age 80 and older .”  Many of the medications that cause eye problems are some of the most common ones used in the elderly population such as heart medications, blood thinners, medicines to control high blood pressure, steroids, antidepressants, and some antibiotics.  In light of this alarming increase in medication use for seniors, there are five things that are important for one to do to protect one’s vision.

  1. Inform your physician of your eye condition

For those of you who have any type of chronic vision condition, whenever you are put on a new medication be sure to first let the health professional know about your eye disease. Then ask the physician about any possible side effects associated with vision changes. Never assume that the physician is aware of your visual condition.  He or she may not even know that you have macular degeneration, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, diabetic retinopathy, etc.   It is your responsibility to let the doctor know about the health of your eyes and your concern regarding any possible side effects that may affect your sight.

  1. Ask the physician about any side effects

Ask your physician about any side effects, temporary or permanent,  especially those that are associated with vision changes.

  1. Find out in what ways your vision should be monitored

For patients who need to take medications that may affect their vision, it is important that their eye health is being regularly monitored. Find out if your eye pressure needs to be checked for glaucoma, your lens for cataract formation or your retina for signs of edema or detachment.

  1. Inform your physician of all your medications

Bring a list of all your medications to your office visit. Let your ophthalmologist know about any prescriptions, over the counter drugs or supplements you are taking.  Keep an up to date list and show it to your eye doctor for him to review at your next eye appointment.

  1. Call your doctor whenever you notice a change in your vision

Whenever you start a new medication and notice any change in your vision contact your eye doctor and the prescribing physician as well.  They may want to stop the medication completely or find an alternative drug that does not have a vision side effect.  Some common side effects that can be associated with over the counter drugs, prescription medications and even some health supplements include:

  • Dry eyes, redness and burning
  • Blurred and/or double vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Increased risk of glaucoma or rise in eye pressure
  • Severe eye pain
  • Increased risk for development of cataracts or retinal detachment
  • Pupil dilation
  • Loss of visual acuity or inability to focus
  • Changes in color vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Corneal changes
  • Optic nerve inflammation, uveitis and conjunctivitis
  • Macular edema



Leslie Degner, RN, BSN