FDA, Drugs and Your Eyes!

The FDA, or Food and Drug Administration, is recognized as the oldest consumer protection agency of the United States Federal Government.  The organization’s unofficial roots originate around 1848 and start with the Patent Office.  The FDA evolved from assessing agricultural products to now approving dozens of new pharmaceutical agents yearly.Image result for picture of medicine bottle

As often offered to patients and in various presentations, every patient should be aware of ophthalmic effects to medicines being introduced.  Unfortunately, a number of drugs while helpful to a specific problem in the body may, in fact, be visually impairing.

In 2011, it was reported that over 4 billion prescriptions were prescribed.  Data varies slightly, but surprisingly some 70% of the United States population takes at least 1 medicine per day!  Examples of medicines very commonly prescribed are lipid regulating medicines (to control cholesterol), narcotic agents (to control pain), anti-depressants (emotional control drugs) and anti-biotics (used to fight infection).  Certainly, many other classes of drugs exist, such as anti-diabetes drugs, but each medicine represents a chance for adverse eye effects.

One example, the medicine Amiodarone, a medicine used for help abnormal heart rhythms can lead to unusual deposits on the cornea.  Topiramate (Topamax), a medicine for control of seizures, can put patients at risk for attacks of glaucoma and shifts in spectacle prescription.  Hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil), which is successful in the treatment of a few conditions such rheumatoid arthritis, can at times lead to toxic retina issues and vision loss. Finally, drugs that are used for emotional, psychiatric and attention deficit disorders such as Paroxetine (Paxil), Sertraline (Zoloft) and methylphenidate (Ritalin) can lead to dry eye, blurred vision and extra ocular muscle problems like nystagmus (abnormal eye movement).

Adverse ophthalmic effects are certainly not the norm for any prescribed medicine.  However, it does happen and there are a few things you can do to help avoid or at least understand possible side effects:

  • Always keep a complete list of current medicines ready to be copied or listed for the doctor
  • Always keep a detailed list of medicines or substances which created some adverse effect for you, no matter how significant or minimal the reaction
  • Provide a list of any other type of allergies
  • Have a good working relationship with your pharmacist.  They are always very friendly, caring and filled with great knowledge on pharmaceuticals
  • Know your baseline eye health

The last point is often overlooked.  It is important to have a thorough eye examination as a baseline.  Obviously, dramatic reactions would produce obvious changes to the vision and eye health.  But what of those with very slight changes?  With a thorough eye health examination, a baseline is established changes can be monitored over time that are known to be attributed to long term or recently started medicines.

The Food and Drug Administration became known by name in 1930.  It’s official beginning was in 1906 with the passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act.  While it continues its basic purpose as the consummate consumer protector, its role has drastically changed.  So, has the science and application of medicines.  What remains constant, however, is that patients can greatly help to protect themselves by reading, learning, and as always, getting a thorough eye health examination at least yearly unless otherwise directed.

Call New Era Eye Care today for that excellent, thorough examination.

Brian O’Donnell, M.S., O.D.