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Could My Medications Cause Vision Problems?

2. Antihistamines continued...

If you have narrow angles, says Shugarman, who also runs a private practice in West Palm Beach Florida, you should not take any types of drugs that might dilate your pupils, such as antihistamines. You also need to avoid taking anticholinergics, or antispasmodic medications, he says. These may include scopolamine patches for sea sickness and drugs that calm diarrhea and muscle spasms in people with gastrointestinal problems.

How to prevent vision problems: If you notice severe eye pain, sudden visual blurring, or other symptoms of angle closure glaucoma, get immediate medical help. Glaucoma usually has no symptoms, so you can have it and not know it. Regular eye exams can detect glaucoma early on and help prevent vision loss.

3. Antimalarial drugs

Generic and brand names: hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil, Quineprox), chloroquine (Aralen)

These medications treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, and they can prevent or treat malaria. While rare, some people who take these medications over time can develop retinal toxicity, leading to permanent vision loss. "Plaquenil toxicity of the retina is typically dose related," says Greenstein. "In other words, you have to be on a lot of it for a long time in order to be at a high risk."

How to prevent vision problems: Before taking these medications, you should be examined by an ophthalmologist. "Patients often come in for a base-line study to be sure their eyes are healthy before going on it," says Greenstein. Patients taking antimalarials on a daily basis need to be checked yearly after that.

4. Corticosteroids

Generic name: prednisone

Brand names include: Deltasone, Meticorten, Orasone, Prednicot, Sterapred

Prednisone is a type of corticosteroid used to treat conditions such as arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, severe allergies, ulcerative colitis, and breathing disorders. "Prednisone is well known to increase a patient's risk of developing cataract or glaucoma," says Greenstein. "A certain percentage of people who take prednisone are what we call 'steroid responders.'" The drug can cause an elevation in eye pressure, which is a major risk factor for developing glaucoma, he says.

How to prevent vision problems: If you notice vision symptoms such as eye pain, halos around lights, or blurred vision, call your doctor right away. If you take corticosteroids often, get a comprehensive eye exam once a year to check for glaucoma or cataracts.

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