Lupus And Your Eyes: Prognosis And Protection
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that affects nerves, skin, muscles, and tissues. The body's immune system targets healthy cells, which can lead to a number of complications. One of the areas that can be affected is your eyes, resulting in the need for further protection and care.
Lupus affects different people in different ways, so not all symptoms apply to all people. However, there are some common issues with eyesight that people with lupus may experience. These include:
- dry eyes. About 1/5 of people with lupus will develop Sjögren's syndrome as a secondary condition; your glands simply won't produce enough tears to keep the eyes properly moist. For people who have this side effect of lupus, especially people who need vision correction, contacts generally aren't an option. Your optometrist should be able to provide you with eyeglasses and eye drops in order to increase the moisture in the eye and to prevent damage to the cornea.
- the blood vessels in the eye may change. Some blood vessels may become blocked, others may experience reduced blood flow. Sometimes, if blood flow is significantly reduced, impaired vision is the end result due to small veins changing shape or collapsing.
- nerve damage. Your eyes are extremely complex. The nerves around the eyelids and inside the eye work to make tiny adjustments in aperture and movement in order to provide clear vision. If lupus reduces nerve function, the eyes may move involuntarily, have trouble focusing, or the eyelids may droop. Sometimes, double vision or poor vision quality caused by slowed nerve reactions can be fixed with glasses.
For people with lupus, the cells of the body are much more susceptible to damage from UV light. Even though everyone should wear sunscreen and sunglasses while outdoors, those with lupus have to careful even when they are inside. Artificial UV light is damaging as well, and there is often no way to gauge how much light in a home or public building will cause harm.
It's the the damage itself that causes the trouble, because lupus hinders normal immune function. The body is not able to repair these cells or remove them from the body in a timely manner, and so the damaged cells remain, which can cause the immune system to flare up and make lupus symptoms worse as the immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. Eyes are often one of the weakest points for allowing UV light into the body, as they are more open to damage because light is actually allowed to flow inside the organ through the open pupil.
If you have lupus, your optometrist will suggest:
- getting a pair of prescription sunglasses to protect your eyes most of the time. If you dislike wearing dark lenses inside, you can also invest in transition lenses, which automatically darken in the presence of UV light, becoming darker with brighter light.
- using low wattage light bulbs in the home, to prevent damage from artificial UV light.
- putting a filter over laptop and TV screens in order to prevent flare ups and headaches. Vision problems are often made worse because of bright light from electronics.
Finally, there are some forms of lupus that allow for vision correction with laser surgery. If you have systemic lupus erythematosus, you can talk to your doctor about improving your vision with LASIK surgery. LASIK helps to correct your vision by reshaping the cornea. It can be especially effective for people who have trouble wearing glasses or contacts because of dry eyes.
Living with lupus is a challenge, but there are some things you can to to keep the disease at bay. By wearing sunglasses and by following the advice of your optometrist, you should be able to slow the progression of the affects of lupus.