Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a blood cancer that can cause a wide range of symptoms. The symptoms of AML can impact your whole body, including your eyes.

Studies estimate that around half of all people with AML have eye symptoms. The exact symptoms and the severity of symptoms can vary depending on the person.

Eye symptoms can occur ‌at any time during AML treatment and are sometimes a side effect of chemotherapy and other AML treatments. Often, eye symptoms resolve on their own or resolve as general AML treatment progresses, but specialized treatment is sometimes needed.

Keep reading to learn more about eye symptoms of acute myeloid leukemia, what causes them, and how they’re treated.

People with AML sometimes experience symptoms that impact how their eyes feel and function. Symptoms can vary and might depend on the exact underlying cause.

Possible eye symptoms of AML include:

In some cases, these symptoms are mild. For example, someone with AML could have a swollen eye or even mild vision loss without realizing it.

In other cases, these symptoms can be alarming and cause difficulties in everyday life. Always contact your doctor right away if you notice any eye symptoms. Your doctor can determine the cause and the best course of treatment.

There are multiple factors that can lead to eye symptoms for people with AML. Sometimes, eye symptoms are caused by the spread of AML to the eyes, brain, or spinal cord. This can cause eye swelling and eye bleeding.

AML can also extend to the cavity in your skull where your eyes rest. This is called the eye orbit. AML that spreads to the eye orbit generally leads to growths, swelling, and bleeding.

In other cases, eye symptoms are the result of AML complications. For instance, AML often causes people to have too few healthy red blood cells. This leads to a condition called anemia. Severe anemia can lead to vision loss.

Additionally, AML makes it harder to fight infections. This can increase your risk for eye infections.

AML treatments are another factor that can cause eye symptoms.

Treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, bone marrow transplants, and corticosteroids taken for pain management, can all sometimes have side effects that result in eye symptoms. For example, corticosteroid medications can raise the pressure in your eyes and lead to blurry vision.

Treatment for the eye symptoms of AML depends on the specific symptom, the severity, and the cause. In some cases, there might be a quick answer. For instance, if a corticosteroid pain medication is causing blurry vision, your doctor might switch you to another medication for pain management.

In other cases, the best treatment might simply be continuing to treat the AML. Often, eye symptoms will resolve completely when AML treatments have successfully destroyed enough cancer cells.

However, if your eye symptoms are severe or progressive, this might not be enough. In this case, you might receive specialized eye treatments. This might include prescription eye drops or injections that can reduce swelling and stop bleeding.

AML is a blood cancer. It causes a range of symptoms that get more severe the more AML spreads in your body. Many AML symptoms are related to the essential functions your blood cells perform in your body.

Symptoms of AML include:

When do eye symptoms associated with AML typically occur?

Eye symptoms can occur during any stage of AML. Sometimes, they’re present when a person is first diagnosed. In other cases, they can be a sign of late-stage AML and can indicate that cancer has spread to the eyes, brain, or spinal cord.

Do eye symptoms always mean AML has spread?

Eye symptoms aren’t always an indicator that AML has spread. However, some studies suggest that eye symptoms are an indicator of a more aggressive AML. These studies indicate that eye symptoms during any stage of AML could be a sign that the outlook is worse.

However, more research on this topic is still needed.

How long do eye symptoms with AML last?

Eye symptoms of AML can be unpredictable and are often temporary. It’s common for eye symptoms to last for only a few weeks before resolving on their own. However, eye symptoms can also come back at a later time.

Additionally, separate treatment is sometimes required. In very severe instances, the visual symptoms of AML can lead to permanent vision loss.

When should I see a doctor if I suspect my eye symptoms are caused by AML?

It’s always best to talk with a doctor about any eye symptoms, or any other unusual symptoms, you experience during your AML treatment. Any symptom, no matter how minor, is worth mentioning.

Your doctor can help you determine if your symptoms are caused by AML, are a side effect of AML treatments, or are unconnected.

The eye symptoms of AML can include blurry vision, vision loss, eye swelling, and eye bleeding. These can be mild or severe and can be caused by AML spreading, complications of AML, or even AML treatments.

It’s a good idea to talk with your doctor right away if you notice any eye symptoms. They can diagnose the cause and determine the best course of treatment.

Often, eye symptoms will resolve on their own or will resolve along with AML symptoms as treatments destroy cancer cells.

However, sometimes eye drops or eye injections are needed to reduce eye swelling and prevent progressive eye damage.