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Managing Ocular Side Effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy: How Brookside Optometric Group Can Help


Breast cancer treatment can be a challenging and emotional journey. While chemotherapy and radiation therapy are effective ways to fight cancer, they can also cause side effects, including ocular complications. At Brookside Optometric Group, our goal is to help you maintain optimal eye health during and after your cancer treatment. In this article, we'll explore the common eye-related side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and discuss how our experienced optometrists can help you monitor, manage, or prevent these problems.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are powerful cancer treatments that work by targeting rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells. However, these treatments can also affect healthy cells, including those in the eyes, leading to various vision conditions and side effects.

Common Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

  1. Dry eyes: Chemotherapy can affect the function of the lacrimal glands, responsible for producing tears, leading to a reduced tear production. This lack of lubrication can cause discomfort, itching, and blurred vision.
  2. Watery eyes (epiphora): Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can irritate the eyes, leading to inflammation and overproduction of tears. Additionally, these treatments can cause scarring or blockage of the tear drainage system, causing tears to overflow.
  3. Conjunctivitis: Chemotherapy drugs can cause inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane covering the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. This results in redness, swelling, and discharge.
  4. Changes in vision: Some chemotherapy drugs can affect the muscles controlling the eye's lens, leading to difficulty in focusing or fluctuations in vision. Additionally, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy can impact the nerves responsible for transmitting visual information, causing blurred or double vision.

Rarer Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

  1. Cataracts: Radiation therapy, particularly when directed near the eyes, can cause damage to the lens, leading to the formation of cataracts. Cataracts are characterized by the clouding of the lens, which results in blurred or hazy vision.
  2. Glaucoma: Radiation therapy can cause damage to the trabecular meshwork, the structure responsible for draining the aqueous humor from the eye. This damage can lead to increased eye pressure, which in turn can damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss.
  3. Retinopathy: Some chemotherapy drugs, such as those in the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) class, can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina. This damage can lead to fluid leakage, swelling, and vision disturbances.
  4. Optic neuropathy: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause inflammation, damage, or compression of the optic nerve, potentially leading to vision loss. Optic neuropathy may present as blurry or dim vision, loss of color vision, or visual field defects.

It is essential to note that not all patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy will experience these side effects. The likelihood of developing these ocular complications depends on various factors, including the type of cancer, the specific chemotherapy drugs used, the radiation dose, and the individual patient's overall health.

How Brookside Optometric Group Can Help

Our skilled optometrists at Brookside Optometric Group can help you manage the ocular side effects of your cancer treatments:

  • Regular eye exams: By scheduling regular eye exams, we can monitor your eye health closely and detect any issues early, allowing for prompt intervention and preventing long-term damage to your vision.
  • Customized treatment plans: Based on your individual needs, we can recommend and prescribe appropriate treatments, such as lubricating eye drops for dry eyes or medications for managing inflammation.
  • Expert advice: Our optometrists can provide personalized advice on how to minimize the impact of ocular side effects, including proper eye hygiene, wearing protective eyewear, and adopting other preventive measures.

The Importance of Communication

Open communication with your healthcare team is crucial. If you experience any eye-related concerns during your cancer treatment, it's essential to inform both your oncologist and optometrist. Early detection and intervention can help prevent lasting damage to your vision.

The journey through cancer treatment is undoubtedly challenging, affecting not just the body but also the eyes. At Brookside Optometric Group, we are committed to helping you navigate these ocular challenges. Whether you're experiencing dry eyes, changes in vision, or more severe side effects like cataracts or glaucoma, our team of skilled optometrists is here to provide targeted, compassionate care. Through regular eye exams, personalized treatment plans, and expert advice, we aim to alleviate the eye-related side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, allowing you to focus more fully on your overall recovery. To take the first step in preserving your vision during this critical period, contact us today to schedule an appointment.


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