May 22, 2013

Lupus can be a devastating disease for the whole body, but can detrimentally affect the eyes as well. May is Lupus awareness month, so it’s important for us to focus on just how it can affect the eyes and what we can do to combat it.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease; it affects the eyes, skin, kidneys, joints, blood vessels, nervous system, and heart. Lupus attacks healthy tissue, resulting in flare-ups, inflammation, swelling, pain, fatigue, and tissue damage. Some of the most common eye diseases associated with lupus are: erythematosus (thickened rash over the eyelids), dry eye (if coupled with arthritis and dry mouth, it is called Sjogren’s Syndrome), retinal vasculitis (where blood supply to the retina is reduced and vision may be lost), scleritis (which can cause pain, light sensitivity, blurred vision, and red or dark spots on the eye), and optic neuritis (which is an inflammation of the area around the optic nerve, causing profound vision loss).
Plaquenil and Methotrexate are immunosuppressive drugs used in treating lupus; they can adversely affect the eye by increasing the risk of infections, damaging the retina, and decreasing color vision perception. While these aren’t reasons to immediately stop these drugs, discussing your options with your primary doctor and your eye care specialist may best serve your ocular and overall health.

Many of the conditions described above can be treated or reduced effectively, especially with expedited treatment. It is important, if you have lupus, that you routinely follow with both a primary and an eye doctor to ensure your best chances of avoiding possibly blinding complications.