Transplant recipients have an increased risk of developing eye problems from the medications that suppress the immune system. Because of this, it is recommended that you receive a yearly eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist or as frequently as your transplant team recommends.
The most common eye problems seen after transplant include cataracts, changes in the pressure of the eye (intraocular pressure) leading to glaucoma, scarring in the layer of blood vessels behind the retina, and damage to the small blood vessels in the retina due to diabetes (diabetic retinopathy). (1)
A cataract is a clouding of the clear lens of the eye. Cataracts are usually related to aging of the eye. Other risk factors include: diabetes, steroids, smoking, and long-term unprotected exposure.
Glaucoma results from damage to the optic nerve. This nerve carries the images we see to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve is often seen with increased pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure). You are at increased risk for developing glaucoma if you:
Are >60 years of age.
Are African American, particularly >40 years of age.
Have a family history of glaucoma.
Have a medical history of diabetes or a serious eye injury.
Are taking medications that increase the risk of glaucoma.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the blood vessels inside the retina become damaged from high blood sugar levels. When the blood vessels are damaged, fluids may leak into the retina and block the flow of blood. Diabetic retinopathy may lead to vision loss.
1. Kosmach-Park B, Dennison J, Hiller J. Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle After Transplantation. Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle After Transplantation.