We need good eyesight to drive, walk, cook, read, ride a bike and play golf. It is often needed to earn a living. How would you feel if your body started to attack your eyes? Sadly, there are many people with autoimmune conditions who know this feeling all too well.
The immune system plays an important role in keeping our bodies well, fighting foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses to help the body return to a healthy state. In an autoimmune condition, the immune system mistakes healthy cells as invaders and begins attacking these normal cells.
Autoimmune disorders can have devastating effects on the body, including the eyes. Some of the most common conditions include Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis and giant cell arteritis.
Sjögren’s syndrome is most commonly associated with dry eye syndrome, with symptoms including a gritty feeling in the eye, eye redness, watering and ocular discomfort.
Rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus, are commonly associated with scleritis, iritis and dry eye syndrome. Scleritis is an inflammation in the white part of the eyes, the sclera, resulting in redness and deep eye pain. Iritis is an inflammation inside the colored iris, often causing redness, pain, sensitivity to light and blurry vision.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a demyelinating condition affecting the nerves that makes them unable to send normal electrical signals. MS can result in optic neuritis, causing painful eye movements, decreased visual acuity, color vision and pupil changes.
Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a condition with the possibility of very grave visual outcomes, including blindness, if not detected and treated early. Symptoms include double vision, transient loss of vision and other visual disturbances.
While there is no cure for autoimmune conditions, symptoms can be managed. Ophthalmologists regularly work with rheumatologists and other specialists to best manage autoimmune conditions in relation to the eyes, and damage can be reduced or even reversed when detected in its early stages.
Treatment options for eye-related autoimmune conditions typically include topical steroid eye drops, as well as oral and intravenous steroids, while nonsteroidal treatments are available for some conditions.
The importance of regularly scheduled dilated eye exams cannot be over-emphasized when it comes to early detection. Seeing your eye care provider for an annual exam, in addition to when ocular concerns arise, allows for a trained medical professional to assess for warning signs of a more serious issue.
With more than 25 years of service to the Southwest Florida community, Elmquist Eye Group offers experienced doctors who are dedicated to patient care. Dr. E. Trevor Elmquist, Dr. Kate Wagner, Dr. Sarah Eccles-Brown and Dr. Nina Burt of Elmquist Eye Group are available to answer your questions. With three U.S. military veterans leading the practice, rest assured knowing that Elmquist Eye Group’s team stands ready to serve you with knowledge and experience right here in Southwest Florida. For more information, visit www.Elmquist.com, call 239-936-2020 or stop by an Optical Boutique location in Fort Myers or Cape Coral.
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