5 Things You Need To Know About Lupus Retinopathy

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can lead to complications throughout the body. The disease, or the drugs used to treat it, can damage the blood vessels that supply your retinas, the light-sensing tissues at the back of your eyes, with blood. The resulting disease is known as lupus retinopathy; here are five things you need to know about this serious eye condition.

What is lupus retinopathy?

Lupus retinopathy is an eye disease that occurs when your retinal blood vessels are damaged. This damage means that your retinas can't get as much blood as they need, and the retinas may be damaged due to low oxygen levels. Also, when the veins are damaged, your body may try to grow new ones, but these new veins may leak, leading to bleeding inside the eye.

What are the symptoms of lupus retinopathy?

When retinopathy first develops, you may not notice any symptoms. As the blood vessels become more damaged, and the retina starts to be affected by the decreased blood flow, you will start to notice symptoms. These symptoms may include blurred vision, double vision, or changes in your color perception. You may notice blind spots in your vision. Once the disease gets very advanced, you'll also develop eye pain.

Can it cause permanent vision loss?

If you have mild lupus retinopathy, your risk of losing your vision is low. However, more serious cases of retinopathy can lead to vison loss. This occurs due to retinal ischemia, meaning that your retina doesn't get enough blood flow to keep the tissue alive. To protect your vision, make sure to see your optometrist immediately if you notice changes in your vision, no matter how small.

How is it treated?

Many treatments are available for lupus retinopathy. Before planning a course of treatment, your optometrist may need to consult with your family doctor or the rheumatologist that is managing your lupus.

Corticosteroids are typically the initial treatment, usually in pill form. If only one of your eyes is affected, your optometrist may decide to inject the corticosteroids directly into the affected eye, instead. Other immunosuppressive drugs can be used instead of corticosteroids if your medical team is concerned about the side effects of large doses of corticosteroids.

How common is lupus retinopathy?

According to the Review of Ophthalmology, retinopathy is very common among people with lupus. About 3% of people with well-controlled lupus suffer from retinopathy, while 29% of people with active systemic disease have retinopathy.

If you have lupus and are concerned about retinopathy, see your optometrist right away. To find out more about the eyes, contact someone like Kennedy Eye Clinic.