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The Link Between Medications and Eye Health in Seniors

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Link Between Medications and Eye Health in Seniors

Age-related eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma, are the primary causes of vision impairment and blindness in the United States. However, vision loss also intersects with medication safety. Access to clear prescription information—labels, usage instructions, and dosage details—matters for proper medication management. Unfortunately, many seniors with impaired vision struggle to access these essential instructions. 

Distinguishing between medications based on color, shape, or markings becomes challenging. As a result, older adults often lack awareness of services and techniques that can enhance their ability to take medications safely. Ophthalmologists can help direct patients to resources that improve patient function and medication safety.

Systemic Health Problems and Their Ocular Effects

As we grow older, systemic health issues become more common. Conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes can significantly impact eye health. Here’s what you need to know:

  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension): Frequent changes in vision, such as blurriness, may be a warning sign of high blood pressure. Always inform your ophthalmologist about your health conditions and the medications you take.
  • Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes risk developing diabetic retinopathy, a condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina. Proper management of blood sugar levels and a regular eye exam for seniors is crucial.

Medications and Their Effects on Vision

Some commonly prescribed medications can have ocular adverse effects. Here are some that have the potential to affect different parts of the eye:


Antihistamines block histamine receptors to reduce allergy symptoms like runny nose and itching. However, this reduces the production of secretions, including tears, which maintain eye moisture and health. Less tear production results in lower lubrication, causing the eyes to feel dry, itchy, and uncomfortable. Individuals using antihistamines may notice these symptoms as a side effect, particularly during allergy season when such medications are more frequent. An eye test for seniors is the best opportunity to ask your ophthalmologist for an adult eye test whether it’s safe to continue antihistamines.


Antidepressants have been linked to ocular pain in patients with Dry Eye Disease (DED). In a study conducted by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear in Boston, it was found that the severity of ocular pain had a significant association with the use of antidepressant medications. This relationship was observed independently of clinical signs of DED, such as corneal fluorescein staining or tear break-up time. Certain treatments for patients with a neuropathic component might include not only tear film management but also the use of autologous serum eye drops or systemic medications like gabapentin.


Isotretinoin, a potent derivative of retinoic acid commonly used for severe acne treatment, has been reported to cause decreased night vision, which may persist after the medication is discontinued, dry eyes resulting from its influence on tear production and meibomian gland function, episodic eye irritation, and blepharoconjunctivitis. Patients taking isotretinoin may also experience contact lens intolerance due to altered tear film composition. Although rare, its effects on the retina include changes in color perception and potential disturbances in central vision.

Low Vision Doesn’t Mean Low Ability

Low vision refers to significant vision loss that impacts daily tasks. Patients must recognize that normal eye aging doesn’t lead to low vision; it results from eye diseases or injuries. Symptoms include:

  • peripheral vision loss
  • blurred vision
  • difficulty recognizing faces

If you experience these issues, consult your ophthalmologist immediately. They can recommend low-vision resources, aids, and devices to enhance your quality of life.

eye test for seniors

Preventing Eye Injuries at Home

Nearly half of all eye injuries occur at home, often during improvement projects. Protect your eyes by following these tips:

  • Use certified safety glasses during home improvement tasks.
  • Secure stair railings to prevent falls.
  • Increase lighting to improve visibility.
  • Cushion sharp corners and edges of furniture.

Nourishing Your Eyes

Regular exercise promotes good blood circulation and oxygen intake, benefiting eye health. Gentle exercises like walking, yoga, or tai chi help maintain overall well-being as we age. Additionally, practice sun safety by wearing protective eyewear during outdoor activities and getting adequate sleep for healthy eyes.


Whether dealing with vision loss or just aiming to keep your eyes in top shape, simple steps can make a big difference at any age. Stay active, eat well, and take steps to protect your eyes from injuries. But remember, the most effective way to look after your eyes is by getting regular eye exams. An eye test for seniors can catch issues early and keep tabs on your vision health, especially if you have diabetes or eye diseases running in your family.

**Proactive eye care is key to living well. For personalized advice and treatments, contact a Lake Eye eye care professional to book your eye exam for seniors. The information provided in this blog on diabetes and cataracts is intended for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition.**

Written by useye

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