One of the best things you can do before any medical appointment is gather information about the medications you're taking. That’s because any medication can cause a range of side effects. And sometimes the side effects of medications include changes to our eyes and vision. In the more minor cases, the effects are limited to discomfort such as dryness. In the extreme, though, those effects can contribute to vision loss.
All of this means that failing to tell an eye doctor about your medications can leave your care provider half-blind - preventing them from caring for your vision effectively. So today, we want to make sure our patients know exactly how to work with their eye doctor in managing their medications, and watching for potential side effects between appointments.
Always Keep Your Doctor In The Loop
To reduce your risk of feeling the worst effects of a medication, always tell your doctors - including your eye doctors - which medicines you take. If you take multiple medications, write them down. That means all your prescriptions, all your over-the-counter purchases, and even all of your herbal supplements. That way, you won’t forget to tell your eye doctor about any of them in the appointment.
Once your doctors know what you’re using - and why - they can help you either adjust your dosages or effectively treat the symptoms of a medication, depending on your individual medical needs.
Remember, it becomes even more important to bring this list to your doctor if you are living with a chronic condition. Diabetes, for example, is known to affect your eyes and can leave you more susceptible to the side effects of certain medications.
Watch Out For & Report Your Symptoms
Don’t just talk to your doctor during your annual visit - if a new symptom develops between appointments, it’s worth reporting it. This is especially important since the side effects of medications can feel just like the symptoms of aging, looking at a screen too long, or just being tired. Additionally, sometimes medications can trigger chronic eye issues - so reporting a new symptom ASAP will be the key to your care.
Consider the following health issues and symptoms, which are all examples of how medications can affect your eyes:
- Dry eye. Some medications suppress your eyes' ability to produce tears - and without tears, your eyes begin to dry out. A lack of moisture can also make your eyes hurt, burn, or become sensitive to light. Antidepressants, birth control, cholesterol medications, and more can all lead to dry eye. And heads up: before you use eye drops to treat this symptom, it's best to visit with an eye doctor and to discuss how your medications can be causing the problem. Otherwise, it's possible for the ingredients in the over-the-counter drops to make your dry eye worse!
- Light sensitivity. Light sensitivity by itself can also be brought on by certain medications. Acne medicine, antibiotics, and some anti-inflammatory drugs can all contribute to light sensitivity. So if you’re always reaching for your sunglasses or shielding your eyes from the light, an appointment with your doctor is a must.
- Cataracts. If you take corticosteroids - whether for asthma, allergies, arthritis, or skin conditions - then your prescription can raise your risk of developing cataracts. Corticosteroids can be prescribed as a cream or a pill, both of which can cause swelling in the back of the eye or retina and potentially lead to cataracts. While cataracts themselves can be treated, it’s best to discuss your medications with a doctor as soon as possible after starting them, to ensure that steps are taken to protect your vision.
- Glaucoma. Some medications - including those used for depression, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, ulcers, asthma, arrhythmia, hemorrhoids, and allergies - can actually raise your risk of glaucoma. This eye disease develops when the optic nerve in your eye is damaged, often due to rising eye pressure. Doctors aren't sure exactly why medications may cause glaucoma; one theory is that these medications change the eye’s structure and allow fluid and other materials to build up, putting pressure on the nerve. Fortunately, providing a full list of your medications will allow your doctor to focus on potentially risky medicines, and to schedule additional eye exams and treatments as needed to help protect your vision.
These are just a few examples of the potential side effects caused by medication. Any medicine comes with risks of side effects, and even affects different people in different ways. Fortunately, you don’t have to decipher the confusing and complicated world of medical side effects alone.
If you have not told your eye doctor about your most recent prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, contact us today to ask about available appointments with our team. Our staff are ready to update your files and ensure that the medicine you’re taking is helping your entire body - including your vision - reach its healthiest potential.