Find out what happens if you have changes to your eyesight due to nasal or sinus cancer and what can help you to cope.
Coping practically with sight changes
Even if the cancer has only affected one eye, you may have vision difficulties because the sight in your remaining eye isn’t perfect.
A change in how well you see can have a big impact on your ability to read, drive, work and get around. There is a lot of help available to people with visual problems, and this can make your life a lot easier.
The help you need depends on how your vision has been affected.
Regular eye check ups
If you have had any changes in your vision it is important that you have regular check ups with an eye specialist.
This may be every 6 months or less often depending on how much your sight is affected. Your cancer doctor will arrange your eye check ups during your follow up.
If you’ve had one eye completely removed, you will need to make sure that you look after your remaining eye and regular check ups with an optician is the best way to do that.
Day to day life with poor vision
Changes to your vision can make it harder to get around. At first this can be very difficult.
Following surgery to remove your eyeball, the main thing you will notice is that it’s a lot harder to judge the distance between objects. For example, if you are pouring water into something it may be harder to do this without spilling it. You might also find that your sense of balance is affected.
You will get used to this and adjust. You’ll probably find that you turn your head a lot more to the affected side to make yourself aware of objects around you.
Help and support
You can get advice from doctors, nurses, social workers and occupational therapists. A social worker could advise you about possible benefits. An occupational therapist can assess your home to see how adjustments can be made to make everyday life easier. There are also organisations that deal with vision loss.
It is unlikely that your cancer will cause complete blindness. But if you already had visual loss in your other eye you may need support to learn new skills to help you adapt. For example, your specialist eye doctor might suggest you consider having a guide dog.
If you enjoy reading, you might want to get books with larger print, or listen to audiobooks. Or a family member might be able to read to you.
Calibre Recorded Books is an organisation that aims to make the pleasure of reading available to anyone who can't read ordinary print books for whatever reason. Their phone number is 01296 432 339. Or you can join the Royal National Institute for the Blind's National Library Service (phone 0303 123 9999).
A small tape recorder can be very useful for recording shopping lists, phone numbers and street directions.
Aids for poor vision
You may need to wear glasses or contact lenses, but you may also be able to improve how well you see by using low vision aids. These include magnifiers or monoculars (a glass magnifier that fits in the eye socket). You can carry these around in your pocket or bag to use when necessary. They can help with reading very small print or road signs, and seeing far off scenery.
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) can tell you where you can get aids for poor vision.
Registering as blind or partially blind
Your eye doctor may recommend you register your sight problems with your local health authority. They usually suggest this if you have poor eyesight that is unlikely to improve. There are 2 registers:
- sight impaired or partially blind
- severely sight impaired or blind
Being registered on either of these will allow you to get help with the following:
- disability living allowance or Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
- possible funding for education
- concessions on transport, tax credits and your television licence
- disabled parking permit
You will also be supported and protected by the Equality Act 2010. It aims to stop discrimination against disabled people.
Using electronic and digital aids
If the cancer or treatment affects your eyesight you may benefit from a computer or electronic notepad in your work and home. Computers are available with Braille keypads and displays. Screen reading software can read out to you whatever is written on your screen.
If you have some vision, you can make the text bigger on your browser (the programme you use to go on the web). You can install software on a normal laptop or desktop computer to enlarge the text. Or you can have the option to speak into your computer instead of writing.
There are a range of computer programmes that can help you use the web or your mobile phone, even if you have no sight. They can read the words on the screen for you. It’s possible to fit your computer with a Braille display. AbilityNet UK are a charity that help assess the electronic needs of people with disabilities.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) website has a lot of information about using computers when you have sight problems.
Some of this equipment is very expensive and it can be difficult to know exactly what would help you the most. You might want to contact The British Computer Association of the Blind on 0845 643 9811. This is a self help group made up of visually impaired computer professionals and users. They can give advice from their own experience.
Coping emotionally with sight changes
Losing some or all of your sight can be very distressing and has a big effect on your life. As well as dealing with the practical problems, you might have to cope with feelings of anger, low self esteem and sadness.
If you have a false eye (prosthesis) put in, you will probably feel very self conscious for some time. Our eyes play a big part in communicating with others.
If someone avoids looking you directly in the eye, it can be off putting and make conversation difficult.
But modern false eyes can be very realistic and it is sometimes difficult for people to tell which is the false one.
You might feel that you are less attractive to your partner, and worry about your sexual relationship.
It often helps to talk to the people close to you about how you feel. Or you might prefer to talk to someone who doesn't know you.
There are counsellors within the NHS who are experienced in talking to people who have lost some or all of their sight.
If you would like to talk to someone other than your own friends and family, you can contact one of the counselling organisations.