Eye Health in People with Lupus is Shifting, Some Improvements and New Developments
A new study indicates that the frequency of ocular (eye) manifestations has changed. Lupus disease related ocular complications have decreased, particularly those directly linked to systemic disease activity, while drug and age-related developments have increased.
Of the 161 people with lupus studied, a total of 50 exhibited issues with their eyes. The most frequent development was dry eye syndrome (12.4%), followed by cataracts (11.2%), which indicates a change. In past studies, lupus retinopathy (damage to the retina due to abnormal blood flow) was the second most common eye complication. The researchers also saw a decline in incidence of lupus choroidopathy (fluid build-up under the retina). The reduction in lupus retinopathy and choroidopathy is a direct consequence of the improvement in the standard of care of lupus.
Biologic agents and antimalarials, particularly hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), are actively used to treat lupus long-term. As a result, people with lupus have seen significant improvement in systemic disease control, a reduction in lupus flares, with a marked decrease in morbidity and mortality. However, these treatments for longer periods, with higher cumulative dosages have led to an increase in eye manifestations. HCQ macular toxicity was also found to be a frequent (11.2%) development. Persons with macular toxicity were significantly older and had higher HCQ dosage levels, and a lengthier treatment time. Given the significant improvements in medical management of lupus, people with the disease tend to live longer, developing age-related ocular diseases, such as cataracts and glaucoma (3.1%).
Lupus affects the eyes in approximately one third of people with the disease. Regular eye exams are important. The Lupus Foundation of America has funded research for ocular health in people with lupus. Learn more about how lupus affects the eyes.