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Vision changes

Vision changes can be caused by cancer that affects the eye or cancer treatments. They can range from very small changes, such as blurred vision, to complete loss of vision in an eye.

Causes

Vision changes can be caused by:

  • cancer that starts in the eye, such as eye cancer or retinoblastoma
  • cancer that grows into the bones around the eye (called the orbit) or the eye itself
  • cancer that spreads to the eye from another part of the body
  • radiation therapy to the head
  • surgery on or around the eye

Symptoms

Symptoms of vision changes can vary depending on their cause and other factors. Symptoms of vision changes include:

  • blurred vision
  • clouding of the lens (called a cataract) that develops after radiation therapy
  • difficulty judging the distance between objects
  • difficulty seeing to the side (called peripheral vision)
  • loss of balance
  • seeing things that aren’t there (called a visual hallucination)
  • feeling like your eye is still there, if it has been removed

Changes in vision can affect reading, writing, your work and other aspects of your daily life. You may bump into things or have some trouble finding your way. These problems usually get better as you adjust to changes in your vision.

If symptoms get worse or don’t go away, report them to your doctor or healthcare team without waiting for your next scheduled appointment. Be sure to have regular eye exams to check your vision.

Managing vision changes

Your healthcare team can suggest ways you can manage vision changes or loss. Different agencies, such as the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), can also help you deal with vision changes or loss. They can give you practical tips to help you do your daily activities. The CNIB also offers specialized technology and products that make living with vision loss easier at home, work and school. Find out more about CNIB.

You can also try the following to help you manage changes in your vision or vision loss. Find out more about living with an artificial eye.

Tips for managing vision changes in your daily life

Some people find it helpful to carry vision aids, such as a magnifier, in a pocket or purse. These aids can help you read labels, price tags, elevator buttons or other small print. Depending on how much your vision changes, you may have to wear glasses or contact lenses.

Make sure you have good lighting to help you see during different activities. Bright sunlight can cause glare from a window and reflection from glass, which make it more difficult to see. You can sharpen contrast between objects by placing lighter colours on darker colours or vice versa.

You can try different things to help you if you have trouble reading. Try using a small audio recorder or your phone to record shopping lists, phone numbers, street directions and other things you need to remember. Read large-print books or listen to books on tape or CD. You can get a keyboard with large-print keys and make the font on your computer screen larger so it is easier to read. You can also use screen readers or programs that respond to voice commands or that can be adjusted for Braille to help you read your computer screen. Consider learning Braille if you can’t see.

Your doctor or healthcare team will talk to your about how your vision changes may affect different activities, such as your ability to drive. Be sure to tell your provincial or territorial driver-licensing body about your vision change. They will tell you if your visual impairment affects your ability to drive.

Tips to help you cope emotionally

Changes to your vision or vision loss can lead to feelings of shock, anger, sadness and frustration. Even though many artificial eyes are so lifelike that people may not know which eye is false, you may still feel self-conscious and worry about how other people see you. If you have severe vision loss or an artificial eye, you may feel that people are avoiding your gaze.

It takes time and patience to deal with these feelings, but they should get better as you adjust to the changes in your vision. Vision loss doesn’t mean that you will have a poorer quality of life or lose your independence and ability to do your normal activities.

You may find it help to share your feelings with someone close to you. There are also support groups available from organizations like the CNIB.

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