Vision Conditions & Harmful Drugs

This information may not be complete because new drugs appear on the market every day for a wide variety of conditions. lists side effects for over 5000 medications (as of 2024), but if you do an internet search for the name of the drug and "vision side effects" or "eye side effects" you may find the most recent information for that drug.

Allergic Conjunctivitis
Blood Clotting
Vision Related Birth Defects
Dry Eyes
Eye Tearing
Eye Hemorrhage
Eye Surgery Complications
Eyelid Droop
Macular Degeneration
Diabetic Macular Edema
Night Blindness
Optic Nerve Damage
Light Sensitivity
Red Eye
Retina Damage
Sudden Vision Loss

See this information sorted by type of drug or medication.

Drugs harming the Retina

Learn more about the retina and retinal support.

  • Plaquenil (hydroxchloriquine sulfate), routinely prescribed by rheumatologists for rheumatoid arthritis, it can cause irreversible retinal damage.
  • Clonidine (brand name catapres), is a drug used to lower blood pressure
  • Chloroquine (anti-malaria, arthritis) may lead to retinal detachment, reduced color vision, blind spots, and blurred central vision. (This may be related to the total amount of the medication taken over time.)
  • Thioridazine, used for schizophrenia, it can cause pigmentary retinopathy as well as other serious side effects
  • The family of NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can bring about side effects impacting the eyes including dry eyes, cataracts, and retinal hemorrhages that may result from long-term use. These include ibuprofin (Motrin, Advil, Aleve, Bayer, aspirin, ketoprofen, flurbiprofen, and naproxen sodium. In addition acetaminophen (Tylenol), while not an NSAID, can be harmful to vision.
  • Oral antibiotics - have been connected to detached retinas. Levofloxacine (Cravit, Levaquin) and fluoroquinolones, such as ciprofloxacin (Zoxan, Cipro, Proquin) ("Oral Fluoroquinolones & the Risk of Retinal Detachment", April 4, 2012, JAMA.
  • Birth control pills can lead to many eye problems, including retinal vascular problems.
  • Tamoxifen, prescribed after breast cancer treatment, can lead to crystalline deposits in the retina.
  • Cocaine has been shown to lead to retinal artery occlusion, and rapid and often irreversible loss of vision.

Drugs that may cause the Eye to Hemorrhage

Learn about conjunctiva support and macular support.

  • NSAIDS, including over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Aspirin, may exaggerate bleeding of the eye, and usually surgeons recommend discontinuing aspirin for at least a week before eye surgery.
  • Venlafaxine, an antidepressant
  • Amphotericin B, an antibiotic
  • Anti-ulcer medications, such as Cimetidine, can rarely lead to angle closure glaucoma (not open angle glaucoma).
  • Cholesterase inhibitors, often prescribed to those suffering from Alzheimer's disease
  • Pentoxifylline, prescribed for to improve circulation
  • Heparin, coumadin, anisindione, and other oral anti-coagulants, prescribed to prevent blood clotting

Drugs that may cause Red Eye

In addition to eye hemorrhage, which may take place unseen within the eye, these drugs may make your eyes look red.

  • Drugs containing benzalkonium chloride, found in some eye and ear drops, sanitizers, and many other consumer products.
  • Drugs containing thimerosal which is a mercury-containing organic compound widely used in its preservative, anti-fungal, and anti-septic capacity in many consumer products. It is not used in routine childhood vaccinations.
  • Morphine prescribed for pain.

Drugs that may cause Glaucoma and/or damage the Optic Nerve

Learn more about intraocular pressure support and optic nerve support.

  • Any drug that dilates your pupils may increase the risk of angle closure glaucoma (narrow angle glaucoma).
  • NSAIDs, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin. See the list of NSAIDS above.
  • Steroids, cortisone prescriptions such as Prednisone (prelone, deltasone) are the most damaging drugs to the eyes of all prescription drugs. If you must take any of these drugs, be sure to supplement your diet with antioxidants such as vitamins E, C, and beta-carotene. This includes drugs for skin conditions: Betamethasone (alphatrex, diprolene, diprosone), Desoximetasone (topicort), Dexamethasone (mymethasone, decadron, hexadrol), Fluocinonide (lidex-e, lidex), Fluocinolone (synalar), and Triamcinolone (aristorcort, kenalog, triacet, triderm). It also includes drugs for treating asthma, allergic reactions and inflammation such as Methylprednisolone (medrol). Ask your doctor if you can replace Prednisone with a natural cortisone such as hydrocortisone.
  • But even hydrocortisones can contribute to glaucoma. These include oral Hydrocortisone (cortef, hydrocortone) and topical Hydrocortisone (ala-cort, hi-cor, hytone, neaclear, penecort, synacort).
  • Antidepressants, prescribed for depression, such as Amitriptyline (tri-cyclic antidepressants), and Cymbalta increase the risk of acute angle closure glaucoma, but do not increase the risk for "open angle" glaucoma.
  • Stimulants such as ephedrine which is prescribed for low blood pressure, giving rise to dilation of the pupils, may increase risk of angle closure glaucoma.
  • Gastric antispasmodics, prescribed to stop muscle spasms
  • Docetaxel (taxotere) prescribed for breast, lung, prostate, stomach, neck and head cancers.
  • Fenfluramine, prescribed for weight loss
  • Mirtazapine, prescribed for depression
  • Simvastatin , prescribed for high cholesterol Don't eat grapefruit if you are taking this drug, as there are potentially dangerous side effects.
  • Paclitaxel (taxol), prescribed for cancer treatment

The following may contribute to angle-closure glaucoma, (also known as acute or narrow angle glaucoma) a medical emergency, and can trigger an attack whose symptoms include results in redness, blurred vision, pain, and halos around lighted objects.

  • Antihistamines (both non-prescription (ie alka-seltzer) and prescription) dosages.
  • Amphetamines lead to a reduced focusing capacity.
  • Sulfa Antibiotics such as sulfamethoxazole (with trimethoprim) (bactrim, cotrim, septra), sulfisoxazole (gantrisin).
  • Antipsychotic medications, such as haldol, increase the risk for angle closure glaucoma, but do not increase the risk for "open angle" glaucoma.
  • Nasal steroids, commonly inhaled for asthma are connected to causing open angle glaucoma.
  • Drugs for depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions including Venlafaxine (effexor, effexor XR), fluoxetine (prozac, serafem), fluvoxamine (luvox), paroxetine (paxil, pexeva - also used for menopausal hot flashes).
  • Cimetidine (tagamet) prescribed for ulcers and heartburn.
  • Epinephrine (adrenaline, primatene), prescribed for dangerous allergic reactions.
  • Ipratropium (atrovent), prescribed for a runny nose caused by hay fever or a cold.
  • Drugs for heartburn and ulcers including Ranitidine (zantac)
  • Migraine headache and anti-convulsants including Topiramate (topmax)

Drugs that may aggravate or cause Blepharospasm (Eye Twitch)

Learn more about blepharospasm.

  • Drugs for Parkinson's disease such as levodopa.
  • Benzodiazepine drugs prescribed for insomnia, anxiety, seizures, alcohol withdrawal, muscle spasms, and some premedications before certain medical or dental procedures.
  • Drugs used in estrogen hormone replacement therapy.
  • Drugs used for travel sickness
  • Anti-psychotics such as olanzapine used to treat mental conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Drugs that may cause or worsen Cataracts

Learn more about the eye's lens and lens support.

Photosensitizing drugs (drugs that increase your sensitivity to the sun) are drugs that absorb light energy and undergo a photochemical reaction resulting in chemical modification of tissue. They can make you more susceptible to cataracts and macular degeneration. Photosensitizing drugs include:

  • Statins for high cholesterol
  • Antihistamines
  • Birth control pills
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sulfa drugs
  • Oral anti-diabetic drugs
  • Antidepressants (including fluvoxamine (Luvox), venlafaxine (Effexor), and paraxetine (Paxil) raise risk of cataracts by 23-39%, (June 2010, Ophthamology), ("Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and the risk of cataracts; a nested case-control study" Mahyar Etminan, PharmD, Univ. Brit Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
  • NSAIDS (eg. aspirin, ibuprofen, advil, meclofen)
  • Steroids work by imitating the hormones of the body in order to combat inflammation and are often recommended for such diseases as Crohn's Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Over long periods of time steroid use causes cataracts. The cataracts which are caused by steroids are dense and can bring about fast vision. We feel that Can-C has the best chance of dissolving these dense cataracts.

    Another side effect of steroid treatment is increased glaucoma risk. Increased intraocular pressure has been noted in half of people who take prednisone 10-15 gm/daily of prednisone over 1-2 years. If one stops taking steroids regularly pressures will return to normal, but damage done by the elevated eye pressure will remain. Steroid use can cause an increase in blood sugar therefore leading to diabetes, which can then lead to diabetic retinopathy. If you must take steroids, be sure to take high doses of antioxidants such as alpha lipoic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, and lutein to help prevent cataract formation.
  • Glucocorticoids (Prednisone)
  • Fluroquinone, terbinafine, mefloquine type antibiotics
  • Eretinate, isotretinoin
  • Smoking tobacco increases the risk of cataract formation.

Drugs that can cause or worsen Macular Degeneration

Learn more about macula support.

  • Smoking tobacco increases the risk of macular degeneration
  • See the list of photosensitizing drugs above under cataracts

Drugs that can cause Eye Tearing

  • 5-fluoro-uracil (5-FU) a cancer chemotherapy drug can lead to scars and closing the tear drainage system, resulting in tearing.

Drugs that can cause Complications in Eye Surgery

A number of drugs can cause conditions and diseases of the uveal tract in the eye which may not themselves damage vision but which can cause complications in eye surgery. If you are planning eye surgery and are taking any of these drugs you should let your doctor know about them.

  • Drugs for benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), enlargement of the prostate gland, including Alfuzosin (uroxatral), Doxazosin (cardura), and Tamsulosin (flomax).
  • Drugs for high blood pressure such as Prazosin (minipress) and Terazosin (hytrin).
  • Drugs for erectile dysfunction including Sildenafil (viagra), Tadalafil (cialis), and Vardenafil (levitra).

Drugs that can cause Eyelid Droop

  • Botox, containing botulinum toxin can cause drooping eyelids

Drugs that can lead to Dry Eyes

Learn more about dry eyes and support for dry eyes.

  • Antibiotics
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Medications for acne, such as Accutane can cause the feeling of dust in the eye, burning eyes, redness, short-term vision distortions, and night blindness.
  • Antihistamines
  • Birth control pills
  • Appetite suppressants

Drugs that can cause Light Sensitivity

Learn more about light sensitivity.

  • Certain antibiotics
  • Anti-malarial drugs
  • Antihistamines
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Digoxin, used for heart failure or heart irregularity, resulting in glare symptoms, halos around lighted objects, or yellowish vision.
  • Photosensitizing drugs, see "Drugs that cause cataracts" above.

Drugs that can cause Allergic Conjunctivitis

Learn more about conjunctivitis.

  • Antibiotics, topical use (ie, non-oral) of antibiotics may result in allergic conjunctivitis (pink eye). Some oral or intravenous antibiotics treatments to fight bacterial infections may bring about some visual symptoms. For example:
    1. Synthetic penicillins such as ampicillin and amoxicillin can create some mild eye redness, dry eyes, and itching. Rarely they have been caused bleeding of the blood veins in the retina and conjunctiva.
    2. Tetracycline brings about similar side effects as these synthetic penicillins. It also can cause blurred vision and light sensitivity.
    3. Sulfonamide, sulfa drugs, (to which many patients are allergic) can bring about light sensitivity, blurred vision, and bleeding in the eye.
      Note Whenever taking antibiotics make sure you take probiotics such as acidophilus or bifidus and vitamin C to help ward off some of the other side effects that affect the rest of the body.

Drugs that can cause Blood Clotting and Inhibit the Blood Flow to the Eyes

  • Androgen replacement with synthetic hormones
  • Estrogen

Drugs that can cause changes to the Cornea

  • Anti-malarial drugs including Chloroquine, quinacrine, and hydroxychloroquine can cause changes in the cornea. Symptoms such as halos around lights, glare and light sensitivity may occur. There is no change in the person's visual acuity. Once drug therapy is stopped both subjective symptoms and objective corneal signs disappear.
  • Blood pressure drugs cause your body to get rid of excess fluid to give your circulatory system a break. However, in the eyes this means dry eye syndrome, sensitivity to light, and possible double and/or blurred vision in some people. Sometimes beta-blockers, such as Inderal and Tenormin, are prescribed to lower high blood pressure by the kidney's production of renin, a protein. Normally, renin stimulates the release of angiotensin II, a blood vessel constrictor that makes it more difficult for blood to flow through the arteries and thus raise blood pressure. It also causes hormone secretions that contribute to water retention (increasing the fluid amount in the blood system).
  • Amiodarone, a cardiac medication is associated with whorl-like pattern on the surface of the cornea, which rarely may cause vision disturbance. The condition goes away when the medication ceases.
  • Digoxin, used to treat heart failure or heart irregularity. Common visual side effects are color vision changes. You may experience light flashes, blind spots, and light sensitivity.
  • Antidepressants, that change how the brain processes information, like any medication that changes neurological functioning, can change vision. For example:
    1. Prozac may cause double vision, dilated pupils, dry eye syndrome, and blurred vision. It can also cause eye lid infection (blepharitis), eye pain, cataracts, ptosis (drooping eyelid) glaucoma, and iritis. Discontinuing the medication is the only way to eliminate these side effects. If you take Prozac you should know that it is normal to experience these visual symptoms.
    2. Tricyclic antidepressants (desipramine, amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and imipramine) may bring about such visual symptoms as difficulty in close-up focusing, double vision, dilated pupils, and dry eyes.
    3. Valium may cause involuntary eye twitch (blepharospasm), red eyes, and partial eye muscle paralysis.
    4. Zoloft has very few visual side effects.
  • Antihistamines. Because they are designed to dry the mucous in your nose, they dry other mucous membranes as well, such as those in your eye. Light sensitivity is another common side effect, and more rarely, changes in pupil size. You should report any pupil size changes to your doctor.
  • Appetite suppressants (dextroamphetamines, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and phenmetrazine compounds) may contribute to difficulty focusing the eyes, dilated pupils, and difficulty in eye convergence while reading.
  • Birth Control Pills can lead to a higher incidence of migraine headaches, problems with contact lenses due to dry eyes, and color vision disturbances.
  • Psychiatric medications, such as the phenothiazines, ie Chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and Mellaril (thioridazine), in large doses, can lead to pigmentation of the conjunctiva, cornea, and eyelids.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as indomethacin can rarely lead to whorl-like patterns on the cornea surface, but rarely causes visual symptoms.
  • Minocycline, used to treat acne, may result in a pigmentation of the sclera - typically a blue-grey discoloration, worse in sunlight - which goes away with discontinuation of the drug.
  • Tamoxifen, prescribed after breast cancer treatment, can lead to crystalline deposits in the cornea.
  • Cocaine can lead to corneal ulcers that may be infected with bacteria or sterile.

Drugs that can contribute to Diabetic Macular Edema

  • People taking diabetes medications, (thiazolidinediones), rosiglitazone (Avanida) and pioglitazone (Actos) and have 3-6 times more risk of suffering diabetic macular edema. ("TZDs, GLP-1 agonist may worsen diabetic retinal disease , June 27, 2011 Med. Eco. ECon)

Drugs that can contribute to Sudden Vision Loss

  • Erectile dysfunction drugs vardenafil hydrocholoride (Levitra), tadalafil (Cialis), and sildenafil citrate (Viagra) may cause optic neuropathy, especially when the patient has had a heart attack in the past. ("June, 2006, Health Canada Public Communication), ("Feb. 2006, Brit. Jrl. of Ophth.")

Drugs leading to Optic Nerve Damage

Learn more about the optic nerve and optic nerve support.

  • Large amounts of vitamin A can increase the pressure of fluid around the brain, which in turn can cause swelling of the optic nerve, headache, and visual distortions.
  • Heart medication There is an association between amodarone and optic neuritis or optic neuropathy. Patients taking this medication should have regular ophthalmic examinations.
  • Chloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, also rarely used for arthritis, can cause degeneration of the optic nerve.
  • Diabetic medications such as Chlorpropamide are rarely connected to optic nerve degeneration.
  • Ethambutal and isoniazid, used for tuberculosis rarely lead to optic nerve degeneration.
  • Nalidixic acid is associated with increased fluid pressure around the brain, leading to headache, vision disturbances, and swollen optic nerve.
  • Oral contraceptives can lead to many eye problems. Increase pressure of the fluid around the brain, headache, vision changes, swollen optic nerve.
  • Smoking tobacco increases the risk of optic nerve damage.
  • Antibiotics. Some antibiotics, including linezolid can cause optic nerve damage.
  • Sexual dysfunction. Some medicines such as sildenafil (viagra), vadenafil or tadalafil can cause optic nerve problems.

Drugs contributing to Night Blindness

Learn more about night blindness.

  • Quinine may rarely affect night vision.
  • Drugs used to treat acne, such as Accutane can night blindness and other symptoms (see dry eyes, above).

Drugs contributing to Vision-Related Birth Defects

  • Quinine, taken by pregnant women, can lead to "optic nerve hypoplasia" in the fetus, which is an under-developed optic nerve.

Harmful or Harmless? A Last Word

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Even drugs that are considered "harmless" can be harmful to the eyes and body. When medications are taken often or for long periods of time, they can induce dry eye syndrome, sensitivity to light, corneal deposits, gastrointestinal tract damage, and even cataracts.

Two classes of drugs that are overprescribed and overused are antibiotics and diuretics, both of which can disrupt the body's natural chemistry and the fluid balance of the eyes.

Note: Talk to your medical doctor before making any changes to your schedule of prescribed medications.