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Lupus is an autoimmune disease. It attacks your body’s immune system, including the tissues and organs.3
There are four kinds of lupus. Some are more common than others:8
(however, about 60% of women whose child has neonatal lupus may not have lupus themselves)
An estimated 161,000 people have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), and 322,000 have definite or probable SLE.4
Lupus can significantly affect your body in many ways, including your vision. Eye problems are a frequent side effect of the disease.3
Lupus can affect anyone, but some people are more likely to develop it than others.
While scientists have not found genes that cause lupus, it does appear to run in families.6 If one identical twin has lupus, the other twin also has an increased chance of developing lupus.3
There are other factors that put some people at a boosted risk of developing lupus:
Certain infections, sun exposure, and even some drugs can trigger lupus:3
However, people with drug-induced lupus generally improve after taking medication.3 Hormonal or environmental triggers may also bring on lupus.8
Lupus is different for everybody. The symptoms come on suddenly for some people and develop slowly for others. The condition also ranges in severity and may be temporary or permanent.3
Most people who develop lupus have mild cases characterized by episodes. These are called flares. They refer to symptoms that get worse for a while before improving or completely disappearing for spans of time.3
Sometimes, lupus can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms of lupus may mimic other diseases and ailments.3
Lupus may cause inflammation of different parts of the body:3
Other symptoms of lupus include the following:3
Lupus can also affect your eyes and vision.3
Here are some ways lupus can affect vision and eye health:
People who have lupus may develop retinal vasculitis. This reduces blood supply to the retina.7
If your eye does not have enough blood supply, it will try to repair itself by forming new blood vessels. These can form in parts of the eye that might impair vision.7 The new blood cells can also bleed, which affects vision.7
Retinal vascular lesions are a common side effect of lupus. Approximately 28 percent of people hospitalized for lupus-related complications have lesions.2
Uveitis refers to uvea inflammation. The uvea is the vascular middle layer of the eye.7 If any eye layer becomes inflamed, it can cause vision problems.7
Conjunctivitis is characterized by inflammation of the conjunctiva. This is the mucous membrane that protects the sclera (the white part of the eye). Inflammation of the blood vessels in the conjunctiva can cause redness, pain, and itching.7
People with lupus may develop conjunctival ulcers, which are uncommon.7
Cutaneous lupus, which affects the skin, breaks down smaller subtypes. Discoid lupus is the most common kind.7
Discoid lupus can cause rashes and scars on the skin, including the eyelids. This subtype of the disease can also result in eyelash loss.7
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disease that causes dry eye syndrome.7
Dry eye syndrome can occur when the lacrimal glands, which produce tears, become dysfunctional.7 It can feel like sand in the eyes.
About 20 percent of people who have lupus also have Sjogren’s syndrome.2
Scleritis refers to inflammation of the sclera. People who develop scleritis may notice yellow discoloration in the eyes.7 Scleritis can also affect the cornea in some cases.7
Approximately 1 percent of people who have lupus develop scleritis. It tends to be one of the first signs of the disease.2
Lupus can also cause neuro-ophthalmic involvement, which is more commonly known as nerve damage.
One to two percent of people with lupus also have lupus optic neuropathy. This can cause slow progressive vision loss.
Cranial nerve palsies can lead to double vision. It may make eye movements and alignment, as well as pupil reflexes, poorer. This kind of nerve damage can also cause droopy eyelids.
If lupus affects visual nerves in the brain, it can cause hallucinations. Visual nerve damage can also lead to peripheral or central vision loss.
You should see a doctor if your symptoms of lupus are not getting better with time, or if they are getting worse.
Your doctor can help you treat the symptoms of lupus.
Lupus treatment consists of immunosuppressive drugs, like hydroxychloroquine and corticosteroids. These inhibit immune system activity.4
The FDA also approved belimumab in 2011. This is the first drug to treat SLE lupus in more than five decades.4
There isn’t a cure for lupus. But treatments can help you keep your symptoms under control.3
Over time, lupus can take a toll on your health. It can severely affect the following organs long term:
Lupus weakens the immune system, so people who have it are more vulnerable to infections. And because lupus affects blood flow, it can also lead to bone tissue death. Reduced blood supply to the bones can cause breaks.3
Lupus can also cause high blood pressure during pregnancy. Women with lupus who become pregnant have an increased risk of miscarriage.3
There is a very marginal increased risk of cancer for people who have lupus.3
Lupus can be a severe health concern, but it can also come and go. Keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms of lupus, and talk to your doctor if you have concerns.
If you develop lupus, consider the above treatment options to keep your symptoms under control.
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