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The Connection Between Lupus and Your Eyes

Posted on October 5th, 2016


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Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can damage any part of the body. It is caused by an immune system disorder where your body attacks healthy tissues by creating antibodies that cause inflammation, pain, and damage to various organs, which may include your eyes. Since October is Lupus Awareness Month, we’ve delved deeper into the effect it can have on your vision and some steps you can take to control it.


Since Lupus attacks healthy tissue, individuals taking medication to treat the illness may develop symptoms similar to macular degeneration. The macula, a thin layer inside your eye that receives images of light and sends signals to your brain to interpret them, acts as a sort of film. Lupus itself won’t damage the film, but some medications taken to treat it can cause pigmentary changes, including in the macula. Lupus does, however, affect the blood vessels in your macular tissue, which may exacerbate the situation.


Plaquenil (Hydroxychol
oquine), a common drug taken to treat Lupus, has been shown to cause blindness at certain doses and thus requires a full eye exam every 6 months. Other side effects include diminished colour vision, central vision changes, and loss of visual acuity. In these instances, a physician may recommend corrective eyewear. It is estimated that 30% of patients with Lupus will have some form of retinal involvement, so it is important to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam to detect whether further treatment is needed beyond medication.


Another common complaint of individuals affected by Lupus is dry eye. In one study, about 60% of Lupus patients described at least one dry eye symptom. This is due to the tear duct being physiologically affected by the disease. Depending on the severity of symptoms, contact lenses may not be prescribed until dry eye is treated. Treatment may involve a range of applications including artificial tears, eye drops, ointments, or occlusion of your eye’s tear drainage structures. Your eyelids will also be checked for position and health. Regardless of the treatment method, a visit to an eye doctor will set you on the path to comfort.


If you suffer from Lupus or know someone who does, you aren’t alone. Luckily, physicians are more aware of the signs and symptoms of the condition and are able to work with patients to manage them. Visit Lupus Canada for more information on Lupus, and how it affects vision.