The Effects Of Lupus On Your Eyes

If you have systemic lupus, it can affect any part of your body, including your eyes. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that 20 percent of individuals diagnosed with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) experience some form of eye disease.

An autoimmune disorder, lupus can cause dry eyes, a rash near your eyelids, inflammation in the outer layer of the eye, retinal vascular disease, and nerve damage.

When you have lupus, there are several ocular symptoms to watch for. If you experience any of these problems, an ophthalmologist can assess whether you've suffered a related visual impairment.

  • If you get a rash around your eyes, you may experience burning and itching. Recurrent lesions on the skin of the eyelid can cause scarring. Discoid lupus -- a chronic dermatological disease -- can also cause you to lose your eyelashes.

  • Changes in retinal blood vessels are common with lupus. When not enough blood gets to the retina, you can have vision problems. Although you may experience only mild vision loss, lupus can cause serious damage to the eye, leading to severe vision loss. However, if lupus retinopathy is mild, controlling the disease reduces the risk for vision loss.

  • Nerve damage related to lupus can cause drooping upper eyelids and double vision. Weakened or damaged nerves can cause the eye muscles to contract, leading to involuntary eye movements. When the eye muscles can no longer control the movement of your eyes, you can experience double vision.

  • Double vision is a symptom of vasculitis, or inflammation in the blood vessels in your eyes. An autoimmune condition, such as systemic lupus, puts you at greater risk for developing vasculitis.

  • Lupus optic neuropathy is a condition that can cause loss of peripheral and/or central vision. The condition is a primary cause of blindness in individuals who have lupus.

  • Scleritis -- inflammation of the sclera, or white part of the outer eye -- is often associated with lupus. The condition is painful, especially when you move your eyes.

  • Dry eyes often affect people who have lupus. If you suffer from dry eye syndrome, your vision may be blurred, and your eyes may burn and water. It may even feel like there is something in your eyes.

  • Lupus and other autoimmune diseases can affect the lacrimal gland in each eye. The lacrimal glands secrete tears to lubricate the surface of the eyes. When these glands become inflamed, they can't produce enough tears to keep the eyes moistened. Corneal ulcers may develop, which can lead to vision loss.

  • Medications your doctor prescribes to treat your lupus by suppressing your immune system put you at greater risk for developing eye infections. Additional potential side effects of corticosteroids may include increased intraocular pressure, cataracts, and glaucoma. Large doses of certain other drugs can cause damage to the retina.

If you have lupus and experience any of these symptoms, contact a clinic such as Nevada Institute Of Ophthalmology.