Cancer treatments can cause changes in eyes and vision. Your health care team can you help you manage these side effects.
Radiation, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, targeted therapy and hormone therapy can cause eye and vision changes, including:
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye pain
- Blurry vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Dry eyes
- Watery eyes
- Red and swollen eyelids
- Changes in the way colors are seen
- Small dark shapes (floaters) and flashes of light in the field of vision
- Accelerated development of cataracts
The stress associated with cancer and its treatment can also cause eye and vision changes.
A more serious side effect of certain treatments, especially chemotherapy and radiation, is increased pressure within the eye (glaucoma), which can lead to vision loss.
It’s important to remember that not all people experience all of these side effects, and people may experience eye and vision side effects not listed here.
Before or shortly after starting treatment, it is helpful to ask a member of your health care team the following questions:
- Are there any common eye and vision changes associated with my treatment?
- Should I be tested for glaucoma and/or cataracts on a regular basis during my treatment?
- What are some options to reduce the impact of eye and vision changes?
- Should I wear glasses instead of contact lenses during my treatment?
- How long can eye and vision issues last? Will they go away after my treatment ends?
- How often should I see an ophthalmologist during my treatment?
Telemedicine, also called telehealth, refers to the remote delivery of health care services. Through video-conferencing technology, you can communicate with your doctors and other members of your health care team from the comfort of your home.
Telemedicine can save time, offer more flexible scheduling and make you feel more connected with your health care team. Information gathered during these appointments will be added to your record, just as with an in-person visit. Although the focus in this booklet is on telemedicine appointments conducted through a video conference, the communication can also be via a traditional “voice only” phone call.
Contact your health care team about whether telemedicine appointments are available and if they are the right choice for you. Your insurance carrier can advise you about your coverage for telemedicine appointments.
Through telemedicine, your oncologist and other member of your health care team can provide:
- A pre-visit review of your symptoms, personal health and family history
- A review of your treatment plan and expectations
- Guidance for in-person or hospital visits
- Information on relevant clinical trials
- Adherence guidance (see the “Importance of Adherence” section)
- Symptom management (including pain)
- Education on lifestyle modification to improve your quality of life
A telemedicine visit may allow your doctor to prescribe oral medications when an in-person office or hospital visit is not possible or is undesirable from a risk perspective (e.g., exposure to COVID-19 or other viruses).
Telemedicine is not suitable for medical emergencies or visits that require a physical exam or lab work.
Prior to the Day of the Appointment
If you are seeing a health care provider for the first time, there may be forms to complete in advance of your appointment. These forms will be sent by your provider’s office via regular mail or email. Telemedicine appointments require an internet or data connection through a computer, tablet or smartphone that has a front-facing camera. A member of your health care team will provide specific instructions on how to join the video call, including any program or application that may have to be downloaded in advance and the required login information. Ask if there is a back-up program in case the preferred program or application doesn’t work or if a phone call can be used if as a last option.
Tell a member of your health care team ahead of time if a caregiver, friend or family member will be joining from a different location, so that any necessary technology-related information can be shared.
Gather your medical information, including information about your diagnosis, treatment plans, surgical procedures, any other health conditions you have and your family medical history. Create a list of your prescriptions plus any over-the-counter products or supplements that you are taking. It is also helpful to have your insurance information handy.
When scheduling your appointment, ask if there are any vital signs you should measure on the day of the visit (e.g., temperature, blood pressure). If you are able to, have the measurements ready to share.
The Day of the Appointment
Here are tips to make your appointment as successful as possible:
- Dress in loose, comfortable clothing.
- Find a space that is quiet, private and well-lighted.
- Check your internet connection.
- Plug in your device or make sure it is fully charged.
- Check that your microphone and camera are working.
- Make sure any required program or application is properly downloaded.
- Ask others in your household to avoid streaming video during your appointment, as this can slow your internet connection.
- Close any other programs or applications to maximize the quality of the connection and to reduce distractions.
- If you are using a smartphone or tablet, prop it up on your desk or table so that the camera is steady and facing you.
Once the appointment starts, try not to be too close to the camera. Your head and shoulders should be visible, similar to a driver’s license or passport photo.