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Eye Doctors Give Breast Cancer Patients One Less Thing to Worry About

If you recently received a breast cancer diagnosis and are undergoing treatment
for the disease, your short- and long-term eye health may be at risk.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), some breast cancer treatments can lead to ocular issues. One medication
in particular – tamoxifen – has long been linked to dry eye
symptoms, irritation, cataracts and retinal deposits that may cause macular edema.

The AAO says, “Only a small percentage of breast cancer patients
experience clinically evident ocular side effects from their medications.”
However, Key-Whitman Eye Center’s
eye doctor Kimberly S. Warren says dry eye symptoms affect many women during breast cancer treatment,
so women with breast cancer should be proactive about managing dry eye.

“While long-term ocular issues can result due to cancer medications,
what we most commonly see with patients going through breast cancer treatment
is eye irritation, redness, a sensation of sandy grit in the eye and dryness,
which can lead to blurred vision,” Dr. Warren says.

Dr. Warren discusses the signs and symptoms of dry eye caused by breast
cancer treatment.

So why are breast cancer patients at high risk for dry eye?

According to Dr. Warren, both chemotherapy and hormone treatments can increase
the likelihood of dry eye.

As she explains, “Chemotherapy targets the type of cells that produce
tears, just like it targets cells responsible for hair growth. That’s
why many women lose their hair and stop producing tears during treatment.
On top of that, some women receive hormone therapy to treat breast cancer,
which also can affect a woman’s ability to produce tears.”

Your first line of defense? A baseline eye exam

According to the AAO, the longer a patient undergoes treatment for breast
cancer the higher the likelihood that eye problems will occur. During a
baseline eye health exam the eye doctor can establish the overall health of the patient’s
eyes, then monitor changes to eye health at regular intervals.

In the early stages of breast cancer treatment, dry eye symptoms may come
on slowly, or the patient may attribute dry eye symptoms to allergies
or other medications. This is another good reason to get a baseline exam.

One less thing to worry about: Get ahead of dry eye symptoms

Eye doctors often use baseline eye exams to proactively minimize and prevent
dry eye symptoms. “During the baseline exam, we measure tear production,
check the health of the cornea to see if any dry spots or irritation has
occurred, then formulate a dry eye treatment plan based on the severity
of the patient’s dryness,” Dr. Warren says.

Through this proactive approach, eye doctors can equip patients with the
dry eye treatment that best fits their needs and prevent symptoms from escalating.

Says Dr. Warren, “We may suggest an artificial tear replacement several
times a day, or other treatments, like medicine that helps the patient
produce her own natural tears again. The goal is twofold. Prevent symptoms
from getting severe in the first place and provide relief of eye irritation,
redness, and dryness, especially for those with blurred vision.”

Eye health supplements with omega 3s, omega 6s and flaxseed can also help ease dry eye symptoms.
“We often recommend supplements to breast cancer patients with dry
eye, but with the caveat that she review those recommendations with her
oncologist. The oncologist may be prescribing supplements as well, and
we don’t want the patient to double up,” explains Dr. Warren.

Dr. Warren shares the story of one breast cancer patient who found relief
of symptoms and improved vision through dry eye treatment.

We help minimize your eye discomfort, so you can focus on getting well

If you have been diagnosed with breast cancer and live in the Dallas-Fort
Worth metroplex, the eye doctors at Key-Whitman Eye Center are here to help.

To schedule an eye appointment with Dr. Warren in Plano or an eye doctor
at our locations in Dallas, North Dallas, North Arlington, South Arlington
or Mesquite,

please call
(972) 905-9128, or feel free to set up an appointment online here.

During the month of October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, all patients
who have LASIK at Key-Whitman will have a portion of their LASIK surgery
fee donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


A native of Houston, Texas, Kimberly S. Warren, M.D., graduated summa cum
laude from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Science degree in
biology. Dr. Warren earned her medical degree from the Texas Tech University
of Sciences Center where she was a member of the prestigious Alpha Omega
Alpha Honor Medical Society. As a Key-Whitman eye surgeon, Dr. Warren
specializes in vision correction surgery with high-technology lenses,
as well as glaucoma management. Dr. Warren and her husband are proud parents
of three children and reside in Plano.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Posted in: Dry Eye


  1. I have been on Tamoxifen for breast cancer for a bit over 2 and a half months. My eyes have become so itchy and irritated that I am constantly aware of discomfort, day and night. I first thought it must be allergies but have eliminated that as a likely cause. I even saw an ophthalmologist but she was somewhat dismissive and just suggested OTC drops for allergies and dry eyes. That has been of little relief. I am considering going off of Tamoxifen, especially after doing a bit of research and discovering there can be eye problems on it. I have had some other side effects but those are more tolerable than the eye problem. Thanks for any feedback you may have for me.

    Comment by Martha Roberts on October 16, 2019 at 12:39 pm

  2. I am also going through the same problem. I have been on Tamoxifen for 5 yrs and trying to figure out what treatment is needed. Not receiving much direction from the eye doctor’s office.

    Comment by carolyn wille on October 28, 2019 at 8:07 pm

  3. I started tamoxifen August 1, 2019 and mid September needed to schedule emergency eye apt with MD as my eyes were so dry. I have had dry eye for many years, never experienced anything this severe, also have ocular rosacea which flared at the same time along with the rosacea on my face. Now in December, again I have very painful dry eyes again blurring vision, eyes sensitive to light, had another emergency apt with eye MD yesterday. Not sure that I can tolerate this for much longer. Hate to give up on medication that has preventative benefit for DCIS breast cancer but am wondering in view of fact that research is looking at the over treatment response to DCIS if this hormone treatment is really necessary vs quality of life. Are there any worthwhile treatments to resolve the dry eye issue that appears to be caused by tamoxifen ? While this may not be a problem for the majority of tamoxifen users, it may be a real deal breaker for those of us that suffer from dry eye.

    Comment by Suzanne Doin on December 18, 2019 at 3:30 pm

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COVID-19 Your Health and Safety Remains our Top Priority. Read More.

COVID-19 Your Health and Safety Remains our Top Priority. Read More.