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Ocular Side Effects From Common Medications

Modern medicine remains one of humanity’s greatest achievements, extending our lifespans as well as improving our quality of life. But like many great things, the benefits of medication often come with a tradeoff. Because our eyes are complex structures rich in tiny blood vessels, they are especially vulnerable to side effects from medications. For example, Elmiron, the only FDA-approved drug for bladder pain,  has recently earned a reputation for being linked to permanent retinal damage and macular degeneration.

However, not all ocular side effects are as severe, and not all are well-known. Below are a few of the most common medications that have been known to cause ocular side effects.


Prescription Medication

What prescription drugs can impact vision?


Use: Commonly taken by post-menopausal women to prevent calcium bone loss.
Side effects: Inflammation of the eyes, including uveitis and scleritis. This can present as eye pain or blurred vision.
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Uncommon


Use: An immunosuppressant, Cyclospirine prevents organ rejection in people who have received a liver, kidney, or heart transplant.
Side effects: May disrupt circulation to the brain, which can result in bilateral vision loss and possibly stroke if not caught early.
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Rare


Use: Acne treatment, primarily in teenagers. Also used to treat bacterial infections.
Side effects: Vision loss from increased intracranial pressure and papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve).
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Rare


Use: Treatment of malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
Side effects: Possible ocular toxicity
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Very rare at prescribed dosages


Use: Used to treat microbacterial diseases such as tuberculosis
Side effects: Can be an optic nerve toxin at high dosages
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Very rare, so long as kidneys are healthy and can filter the drug adequately

Topiramate (Topamax)

Use: Commonly used to treat epilepsy and migraine headaches
Side effects: May cause acute angle closure glaucoma, which presents itself soon after beginning the medication.
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Rare

Tamsulosin (Flomax)

Use: Used to treat prostate enlargement and improve urinary flow
Side effects: Can cause complications during cataract surgery.
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Rare


Use: Treatment of cardiac arrhythmias
Side effects: Can cause a whorl in the eye, a deposit in the eye which doesn’t usually result in vision loss. Very rarely, permanent vision loss has been reported.
Occurrence of ocular side effects: Rare

Viagra and Cialis

Use: Treatment of erectile dysfunction
Side effects: These drugs have been linked to a number of ocular effects such as blurry vision, light sensitivity, decreased color vision, and having a blue-green tint to your vision. In individuals with comorbidities such as high blood pressure, optic neuropathy has been reported. Occurrence of ocular side effects: Rare

Be sure to inform your eye doctor about any medications you may be taking, and be sure to inform your doctor if you experience any changes in your vision while taking the above medications. By being informed of the side effects of the medications you are taking or are considering, you’ll be empowered to make the best decisions for your ocular health and overall well-being.