Lupus refers to a chronic autoimmune disease that affects several parts of the body. The disease can have serious effects on our kidneys, heart, joints as well as on skin; the nervous system and blood vessels are at risk too.
Owing to the systemic inflammatory process in the human body, the autoimmune disease also affects our eyes. Moreover, prescribed medications can also interfere with normal eye function.
One of the most common effects of Lupus is a thickened rash over the eyelids. This rash is referred to as discoid Lupus erythematosus which comprises of disc-shaped and scaly lesions. Patients usually experience the rash in areas that are exposed to sun. In some cases, the rash occurs independent of Lupus. However, roughly 10% of people who have it eventually develop systemic Lupus erythematosus. The best way to treat the lesions is the use of oral steroids.
Apart from this, there are 3 common ways that lupus can affect your eyes.
Dry Eye Disease
Dry eyes are common in patients who have autoimmune disorders. But it is more common for lupus patients to develop the Dry eye syndrome. If someone suffers from the condition, he/she experiences a sandy feeling in the eye. Patients also experience itching and irritation.
Since the general tear volume is dramatically decreased, it affects the overall wellbeing of your eye, particularly the conjunctiva and the cornea. Lupus also reduces lubricants that coat and protect the eye. Hence, the eye lacks the protection it needs to shield the external eye parts.
Another complication is retinal vasculitis. In this condition, the retina attempts to repair itself by producing new blood vessels by means of a process referred to as neovascularization.
However, the new blood vessels are very fragile. As a result, they leak blood and fluids. If vasculitis affects the macula, a patient can also lose central vision. This retinal disease also affects eye muscles and the optic nerve.
Lupus also contributes to the inflammation of the sclera which is the eyeball’s outer coating. The scleritis disease leads to a painful swelling of sclera. This inflammation also results in the thinning of sclera and weakens of the eyes, which makes them vulnerable to damage.
In many cases, scleritis leads to light sensitivity and a blurred vision along with discomfort and pain. Scleritis is usually treated with topical and oral steroids as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you are experiencing any discomfort or painful symptoms due to Lupus, it is important to get in touch with an eye doctor who specializes in treating eye-diseases related to Lupus. Remember, any delay can cause permanent eye damage. Remember to schedule an eye exam before Lupus does any damage to your eyes.