Could My Medications Cause Vision Problems?
Generic name: tamsulosin
Flomax is used to treat men with an enlarged prostate who have trouble passing urine. It's part of a class of drugs called alpha blockers, which work by relaxing certain muscles, making it easier to urinate. The problem, according to Shugarman and Greenstein, is that the medication builds up in the iris of the eye.
"It can prevent the pupil from dilating," says Greenstein, "and it can also cause something called IFIS, intraoperative floppy iris syndrome." During cataract surgery on someone who has taken the drug, he says, "the eye can literally misbehave in the middle of the operation. It can make the surgery very difficult."
How to prevent vision problems: "If you are a man taking any of those drugs for your prostate, and you're considering having cataract surgery, please make sure your ophthalmologist knows," says Shugarman. "There are certain precautions we can take before and during surgery" to prevent problems.
Generic names and brand names: chlorpromazine (Thorazine), thioridazine (Mellaril)
Phenothiazines are antipsychotic medications used to treat schizophrenia and other mental illnesses. Medication side effects include sensitivity to light, changes in color vision, blurred vision, and problems seeing at night. They can also cause pigmentary changes in the lens of the eye, which usually doesn't cause eye problems, Greenstein says. "If you get pigmentary changes in the retina, that can cause vision problems."
How to prevent vision problems: Vision changes with these drugs seem to be related to higher doses and longer-term use. If you notice any vision changes, be sure to tell your doctor.
Brand names: Soltamox, Nolvadex
Tamoxifen is an antiestrogen drug used to treat breast cancer. It can lead to a condition called crystalline retinopathy, where small, crystal-like deposits form in the retina, Greenstein tells WebMD. "There can be functional and anatomical changes in the retina associated with tamoxifen." Medication side effects also may include blurred vision, corneal changes, and an increased risk for cataracts.
How to prevent vision problems: If you take tamoxifen, it's a good idea to see an ophthalmologist for an annual eye exam. Also be sure to tell your doctor if you notice any eye symptoms.
Brand names: Topamax, Topiragen
Topamax is an anticonvulsant used to treat seizure disorders such as epilepsy and to prevent migraine headaches. This medication is also associated with angle-closure glaucoma, says Greenstein, so patients need to be aware of it.
How to prevent vision problems: If you have sudden vision changes, headache pain around the eyes, blurred vision, or double vision, get medical help. Angle-closure glaucoma is an ophthalmic emergency, says Greenstein, and needs immediate treatment.