If you experience cloudy, blurred, or dim vision, or have noticed that your eyes are excessively dry, you may have an underlying autoimmune disorder. If you do have an autoimmune disease, an eye examination may reveal a condition known as autoimmune retinopathy, where your immune system causes inflammation of the blood vessels in your retina. In light of these findings, your eye doctor may refer you back to your primary care physician for further evaluation and treatment. Here are three autoimmune conditions that may cause visual deficits:
Eyes that are very dry, especially if accompanied by decreases salivary flow, may be indicative of Sjögren's syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that affects the tear and salivary glands. When your eyes fail to produce enough tears, they can become dry and irritated.
This may affect your vision, leading to blurriness or cloudiness. Fortunately, unlike some other diseases that can affect the eyes, Sjögren's syndrome usually does not affect the blood vessels of the retina. Because of this, moisturizing eye drops and certain prescription medications that increase the quantity and quality of your tears can dramatically help improve your symptoms.
Another autoimmune disorder that can affect your eyes is scleroderma. This disorder causes tightening of the connective tissue and skin, and while it is most common in women, men can get it too. According to John Hopkins Medicine, "dry membranes of the mouth and eye are very common complaints" in people with scleroderma.
It is further noted that the dysfunction of the salivary and tear glands in scleroderma are secondary to tissue fibrosis or an autoimmune response. In addition to changes in tear production, this condition may also cause tightening of the eyelids, abnormalities of the retina, and cloudiness of the lens. Drugs known as biologics may help halt the progression of scleroderma by improving circulation and treating the abnormal immune response.
Ocular Myasthenia Gravis
Ocular myasthenia gravis affects the muscles that are responsible for the movement of the eyelids and the eyes. Symptoms of this disorder include drooping eyelids, difficulty focusing, and seeing double. As opposed to generalized myasthenia gravis which can affect the muscles in your entire body, causing weakness in the extremities and trouble swallowing and speaking, ocular myasthenia gravis solely affects the eyes.
Your eye doctor might suspect you have this disease if your eye and eyelid movements are abnormal. Treating this autoimmune disease involves taking medication that increases a chemical in your body responsible for muscle movement.
If you notice a change in your eye function, see Bethany Vision Clinic or your local eye doctor for a complete examination. The sooner these conditions are recognized and treated, the less likely you are to experience a further decline in your visual acuity.