Autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Graves' disease can lead to severe systemic symptoms including fatigue, joint pain, dizziness, rashes, and cardiac arrhythmias. In addition to these symptoms, autoimmune disorders can also cause abnormalities in your eyes. Your optometrist may suspect an autoimmune disease if the following manifestations are revealed during your eye exam.
Uveitis refers to inflammation of the uvea, an ocular structure that is also called the uveal layer. The composition of the uvea includes the iris, which is the pigmented part of your eye. Symptoms of uveitis may include eye pain, redness, diminished or blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and an increase in floaters, which are black specks that appear in your visual field. While uveitis commonly causes the aforementioned symptoms, it can be asymptomatic.
Even if you are asymptomatic, uveitis may be revealed during your eye exam when your optometrist examines your eyes with a slit lamp. They may notice that your uvea is inflamed and that the blood vessels behind your eye are inflamed. Your eye doctor may recommend corticosteroid eye drops to decrease ocular swelling; however, if your uveitis is caused by an autoimmune disorder, your optometrist will refer you back to your primary care physician for further diagnostic testing and treatment.
Your eye doctor may suspect that you have dry eyes if they notice that your eyes are red or if you have sticky mucus in the corners of your eyes. Autoimmune disorders can affect your tear glands, causing dry eyes. While many different autoimmune disorders can lead to poor tear production, it is most common in Sjogren's syndrome. This autoimmune disorder also causes dry mouth, and while it is often diagnosed in women, males can also develop Sjogren's syndrome.
If signs of dry eyes are uncovered during your eye examination, your optometrist may ask you if your eyes feel gritty, if you are sensitive to light, or if your eyes burn when you're wearing your contact lenses. Treatment for dry eyes includes lubricating drops, staying well-hydrated, applying warm compresses over your eyes, and increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. While these treatments can help restore moisture to your eyes, you will need to manage your underlying autoimmune disorder by seeing your primary care doctor regularly.
If you have any of the above conditions, make an appointment with your eye doctor. The sooner eye problems are recognized and treated, the less likely you will be to develop eye pain, infections, or vision problems.
Reach out to a local eye exam center today for more information.