Systemic Diseases and the Eye

Systemic diseases are diseases that involve many organs or the whole body. Many of these diseases also affect the eyes. In fact, an eye exam sometimes leads to the first diagnosis of a systemic disease.

Diabetic eye disease can include diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Initial symptoms can include vision fluctuations as blood sugar levels fluctuate, change in prescription in your spectacles (myopic shift).

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in the retinal blood vessels, causing complications, reduced blood supply, neovascularisation, small haemorrhages, macular edema and large haemorrhages.

Initially no visual symptoms are noticed and for this very reason it is very important to go for a yearly comprehensive eye examination to beable to identify early changes and treat and manage where indicated early.

Treatment includes laser photocoagulation. Progression of diabetic eye disease can cause glaucoma and multiple complications causing highly reduced vision.

Hypertensive retinopathy is the damage to the retina and retinal circulation due to high blood pressure. Symptoms may include decreased vision and headaches. Advanced retinopathy includes ischemic changes and macular edema.

Graves’s disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism, overactive thyroid. Eye involvement is referred to as Graves’sophthalmopathy. This is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder affecting the orbital area and extra-ocular muscles causing proptosis, edema and conjunctivitis. Treatment includes thyroid hormone level regulation, topical lubrication, corticosteroids and surgery.

HIV causes a breakdown of your body’s immune system, all areas of the body are susceptible to infection, including the eye.

AIDS related eye problems include retinal ischemia causing cotton wool spots, and more seriously CMV retinitis. CMV retinitis is caused by the cytomegalovirus and occurs in the advanced stages of AIDS. Symptoms include inflammation of the retina, bleeding and vision loss.

CMV retinitis cannot be cured but progression of the virus can be slowed down with medication. CMV retinitis can cause retinal detachments. Kaposi’s sarcoma is a rare form of cancer that occurs in AIDS patients. This cancer can cause purple-red tensions to form on the eyelids, or a red fleshy mass to form on the conjunctiva

Inflammatory disease that damages nerve coverings, causing weakness, coordination and speech disorders. Eye symptoms may include diplopia(double vision) and nystagmus.