Lupus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease. Lupus can affect different parts of the body including the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, skin, and joints such as elbows, knees, or hips. With Lupus the immune system cannot differentiate between antigens and the tissues and cells in the body; hence, the immune system creates antibodies that fight against itself causing pain, inflammation, and damage different parts of the body.
How Does LUPUS Affect Your Eyes?
Lupus is characterized by redness, heat, swelling, Raynaud’s phenomenon, loss of function and pain. 1.5 and 2 million Americans who are living with a form of Lupus; the number may be higher in actuality. Ninety-percent or more of the people living with Lupus are women, and of these women, the ones experiencing the symptoms and being diagnosed with it are of child-bearing age; between 15 and 45 years old. In America, African Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Native Americans are more likely to have Lupus than Caucasians. The cause of lupus remains unknown, although genetic, hormonal, immunologic, and environmental factors have been implicated.
About one-third of patients suffering from Lupus have ocular manifestations.
- Changes in the skin around the eyelids
- Dry eyes – The lacrimal gland, which produces tears, can be affected by autoimmune diseases.
- Inflammation of the white outer layer of the eyeball (scleritis) –scleritis mainly causes pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision, and redness or dark patches on the sclera.
- Blood vessel changes in the retina
- Damage to nerves in the muscles controlling eye movement and the nerves affecting vision and eye alignment.
Some therapies such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) can cause retinal toxicity if taken on large doses over time. Regular annual comprehensive eye examinations are recommended by the American Optometric Association for people with lupus, especially for anyone taking Plaquenil.
Dr. Matthew Ozment
Optometrist, Broken Arrow OK