If you have an autoimmune disorder such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience muscle and joint pain, an unsteady gait, profound fatigue, and dizziness. These medical conditions can also cause serious problems with your eyes, including your optic nerves. Eye doctors are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune-related ocular disease; however, in certain cases, a neurology consult may be necessary. Here are three serious effects that your autoimmune disorder may have on your eyes and what you can do about them:
Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis may cause vision loss, especially during the early stages of the disease. The vision loss is typically unilateral, meaning that it usually affects only one eye. Optic neuritis, which refers to the inflammation of the optic nerve, generally causes eye pain, blurred vision, light flashes, the inability to see colors, and loss of vision in the affected eye.
If you develop this condition, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids or even vitamin B12 injections because, in certain cases, optic neuritis can develop in multiple sclerosis patients who are deficient in this nutrient.
Extreme Dry Eyes
If you have Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that most commonly affects women, your symptoms may include extremely dry, gritty eyes that are red, inflamed, and irritated. Because this disease can affect the salivary glands, you may also experience a dry mouth, which can be so severe that you may have trouble chewing, eating, and even speaking.
Your eye doctor will recommend special eye drops to restore moisture to your eyes if you have Sjögren's, and if the disease has affected your salivary glands, your dentist may prescribe an enzyme-based mouthwash to help keep your oral tissues from drying out.
If your mouth is constantly dry, you may be more susceptible to developing gum disease and cavities because adequate salivary flow helps wash away bacteria and other infection-causing microorganisms from accumulating in your mouth.
Rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain, limited mobility, and destruction of joints, and while these are the most common symptoms, other manifestations such as fatigue, loss of appetite, and eye problems may develop as well. Because rheumatoid arthritis triggers a systemic inflammatory reaction throughout your whole body, your eyes may be effected.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience eye pain and redness because this disorder often causes inflammation of the sclera, or the white part of your eye. Once your arthritis is under control through medication, your eye symptoms will generally improve.
If you have an autoimmune disorder and experience any of the above conditions, see your eye doctor. The sooner you make an appointment, the sooner your doctor can recommend an effective treatment plan that will help relieve your symptoms and reduce the risk for future ocular complications. Click here for more information.
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