Understanding the Link Between Chemotherapy and Vision Problems

Cancer is a complicated and deadly disease. Every year, millions have to suffer from this disease. Many of them fail to beat cancer and make it out alive.

As reported by Our World in Data, around ten million people die from cancer every year. Between 500,000 and 600,000 of those deaths take place in the US alone. These numbers could’ve been far worse, but thanks to chemotherapy, that isn’t the case. 

According to the US CDC, over a million cancer patients in the US receive chemotherapy every year. Chemotherapy, a cornerstone of cancer treatment, involves the use of powerful drugs to target and destroy rapidly dividing cancer cells. 

While chemotherapy has saved countless lives, it also comes with a range of side effects that can impact various aspects of a patient’s health. One such side effect that often flies under the radar is its potential to cause vision problems. 

In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the link between chemotherapy and vision issues. We’ll explore the mechanisms behind these problems and discuss ways to manage and cope with them.

The Complexity of Chemotherapy

Before delving into the connection between chemotherapy and vision problems, it’s important to recognize the complexity of chemotherapy itself.

Cancer cells cause havoc by rapidly dividing within our body. Chemo agents target these very cells. However, the drugs used in the process fail to differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells that also divide quickly. These healthy cells are found in our hair follicles, digestive tracts, and bone marrow. This lack of selectivity contributes to the well-known side effects of hair loss, nausea, and compromised immune function.

Understanding Vision Problems

Vision problems experienced by individuals undergoing chemotherapy can manifest in various ways, ranging from mild discomfort to more severe and persistent issues. Some common complaints include the following. 

  • Blurry vision: Many patients report experiencing blurry vision during or after chemotherapy. This can result from changes in the tear film of the eye, leading to dry and irritated eyes.
  • Light sensitivity: Chemotherapy can cause increased sensitivity to light, a condition known as photophobia. This can make it challenging to tolerate bright lights, computer screens, or sunlight.
  • Color vision changes: Some patients notice alterations in their perception of colors. Colors may appear duller or less vibrant than before.
  • Difficulty focusing: Difficulty focusing on near or distant objects is also common. This can lead to problems with reading, driving, or performing other daily tasks that require clear vision.
  • Eye pain: Chemotherapy-induced eye pain can result from inflammation of the eye’s surface or structures, contributing to discomfort and reduced visual acuity.

The Underlying Mechanisms

Chemotherapy drugs can affect various components of the eye, including the cornea, lens, retina, and optic nerve. One of the primary culprits is damage to the delicate blood vessels that nourish these structures. 

Chemotherapy agents may cause inflammation and damage to these blood vessels, disrupting the normal flow of nutrients and oxygen to the eye tissues. This can lead to a range of vision disturbances. In fact, the Taxotere lawsuit, filed against Taxotere’s manufacturer Sanofi-Aventis, came to exist because of these very problems, as explained by TorHoerman Law.

Taxotere is a popular cancer chemo drug for breast cancer patients. A couple of years after the drug’s approval, it was found that several patients who received Taxotere developed hair loss and vision problems. The plaintiffs allege that these problems include everything from permanent hair loss and alopecia to vision loss. 

The Taxotere lawsuit settlement amounts are likely to range between $20,000 to a few hundred thousand dollars. Such high settlement amounts expose just how grave the situation was with Taxotere. 

Managing and Coping with Vision Problems

If you’re undergoing chemotherapy and experiencing vision problems, it’s important to communicate these issues with your healthcare team. They can help determine whether the vision problems are related to chemotherapy or other factors and recommend appropriate interventions. 

Here are some strategies that may help manage and cope with chemotherapy-induced vision problems.

  • Artificial tears: If dry eyes are contributing to your discomfort, your doctor might recommend preservative-free artificial tears to keep your eyes moist.
  • Sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses that provide UV protection can help manage light sensitivity and protect your eyes from harmful sun rays.
  • Vision aids: If focusing or reading becomes challenging, consider using magnifying glasses, larger font sizes, or digital devices with adjustable text settings.
  • Adjusting lighting: Dimming harsh indoor lighting and using anti-glare screens for electronic devices can reduce strain on your eyes.
  • Regular eye exams: Regular eye exams after chemotherapy can help monitor any changes in your vision and ensure early detection of any underlying issues.


The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that around 2.2 billion people worldwide have vision impairment. However, there is no clear data on how many of those impairment cases are connected to chemotherapy. Even then, based on our discussion above, it should be clear that there’s a clear link between the two. 

Thus, if you’re seeking chemo, you must keep close tabs on this link. Consult with your doctor regarding these risks and ask them to address any concerns you have. Being careful regarding these details will help you protect your eyes as you continue seeking treatment for your cancer.