Yes, they can. Although eye problems typically stem from conditions unrelated to brain tumors—such as astigmatism, cataracts, detached retina and age-related degeneration—they can sometimes be caused by tumors within the brain. Brain tumors can lead to vision problems such as:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Abnormal eye movements
- Sensitivity to light
- Loss of vision
How do brain tumors cause eye problems?
Vision problems can develop when a tumor places pressure on a certain area of the brain. The occipital lobe, for instance, is responsible for processing everything that a person sees, so a tumor in that region of the brain could cause a variety of sight issues. Or, a tumor affecting the brain stem could result in double vision. Eye problems can also occur when a brain tumor exerts pressure on the optic nerve or when pressure within the skull causes the back of the eye (optic disc) to swell (a condition known as “papilledema”). Finally, brain tumors that invade or push on any of the neural connections between the eyes and the occipital lobe can cause loss of parts of the visual field (blind spots).
Can brain cancer cause blindness?
If a brain tumor exerts enough pressure on the optic nerve, blindness can occur. For many patients, the loss of vision is gradual, beginning with blurry vision, double vision or an increasing blind spot. As the tumor grows, however, it will compress the optic nerve, resulting in greater vision loss. That’s why it’s important to discuss any vision problems with an optometrist or primary care doctor. While it may be scary to bring up this topic, bear in mind that there could be a simple reason behind the vision problems, as brain tumors are relatively rare.
What types of brain tumors affect vision?
Orbital tumors can cause blindness and other vision problems since they grow right in the bony socket that holds the eye as well as the nerves, muscles and connective tissues that control eye movement. Some of the more common orbital tumors include:
- Paranasal sinus tumors
- Fibrous histiocytomas
- Metastatic cancer (cancer that originated in a different location in the body)
Moffitt’s approach to brain tumor diagnosis and treatment
If you’re experiencing vision problems and you’re concerned that they might be caused by a brain tumor, you can turn to Moffitt Cancer Center for diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment. The experienced specialists in our Neuro-Oncology Program will perform an evaluation along with any necessary diagnostic testing to identify the cause of your eye problems, then recommend a course of treatment specific to your condition.
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, Program Leader, Department of Neuro-Oncology.