Did you know that one of the biggest fears people have is going blind?
Unfortunately, autoimmune disorders can affect almost every single part of your body, from your nerves and joints to your eyes, which can be very tedious and painful.
Having an autoimmune disorder can be confusing as you may not know enough about the inner workings of the disease, especially if you’re newly diagnosed. This is when your immune system tends to damage its own healthy cells, up to and including the ones in your eyes.
Understanding the relationship between autoimmune disease and eye health can help you understand how to ensure better eye protection.
Visit Your Ophthalmologist Regularly
One of the best ways to ensure better eye protection is by visiting your ophthalmologist frequently. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that all adults should go for an eye screening at the age of 40 if they have not visited an ophthalmologist before.
Here are some points that you should bear in mind if you have autoimmune disease:
- Don’t wait until you’re 40 for a vision health screening. Make an appointment with an ophthalmologist now if you have not visited him/her for the past year.
- Make it a point to get screened more frequently if you already have symptoms of vision health problems.
- Get regular eye exams if you have been prescribed any medications for treatment of your autoimmune condition.
Common Autoimmune Disorders That Affect Eye Health
1. Sjögren’s Syndrome
This autoimmune disease causes patients to experience dry eyes and mouth as the immune system mistakenly attacks their tear and salivary glands. In addition to these symptoms, this disease can also cause organ dysfunction, attacking the central nervous system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and gastrointestinal system.
Individuals with Sjögren’s often experience very dry eyes, which can result in damage to the surface of the eye. It is important that dry eyes are managed with artificial tears, as keeping the surface of the eyes wet protects them from damage.
In more serious cases, punctal plugs may have to be placed to prevent tear loss. Talk with your eye doctor about your best options.
People with lupus are in a situation whereby their immune system may attack any of their healthy bodily tissues, such as skin, blood cells, joints, and organs. The symptoms of lupus are broad as they vary from person to person. If you suffer from lupus, then you’ll experience cycles of remission and flare-ups and with each flare-up, different symptoms will present themselves.
Lupus can damage the nerves that control your vision and eye movement, inflame the eye tissues, and damage the skin of your eyelids.
People who suffer from lupus usually experience changes in the blood vessels in their retina. This occurs when the immune system attacks the retina circulatory system and an insufficient amount of blood fails to reach your retinal blood vessels. Your eyes try to fix the problem, which tends to create more blood vessels, which don’t have access to any blood, thus further restricting your vision.
It’s a terrible cycle.
Lupus does not have a cure yet, but its symptoms can be managed to have minimal effect with a prescription anti-inflammatory medicine to restore your blood flow.
Psoriasis causes a buildup of excess skin cells on the surface of your skin over a short span of time. This leads to patches of red, dry skin covered in scales. Certain environment and lifestyle factors such as medications, skin injuries, cold weather, and stress can also cause a psoriasis flare.
Psoriasis affects the skin all over your body, as well as your eyelids. You may develop red, scaly areas that cause pain when you blink. The skin around your eyes is very delicate, so talk to your ophthalmologist about treatment options immediately.
Your ophthalmologist may advise you to use eczema medication or corticosteroids, but be sure that the cream never comes into contact with your eyes.
5. Multiple Sclerosis
The link between your visual health and multiple sclerosis is so prominent that ophthalmologists are usually the first to suspect that you may have this autoimmune disorder. One of the early symptoms of multiple sclerosis is optic neuritis, which is the sudden or gradual loss of vision due to inflammation of your optic nerve, which is responsible for your vision.
Other Autoimmune Diseases and Eye Health
Going blind due to declining eye health is a very scary thought for most people. So, if you’re living with an autoimmune disease, visit your ophthalmologist as soon as possible to get your eyes checked.
Regular visits can ensure early treatment, which improves your chances of retaining your vision as you age.