What Is Lupus?
Lupus is the name given to an autoimmune disease, which can affect many parts of the sufferer’s body. The disease is caused when the victim’s own immune system starts to malfunction and attacks the patient’s own body. The function of the immune system is to recognize foreign entities (bacteria, allergens and virus particles) and raise antibodies against them that destroy them. In lupus, the body’s immune system wrongly identifies the body’s own tissues as being foreign and so triggers an immune response to them. The result is that healthy tissue is attacked and damaged causing pain and inflammation in the affected parts of the body. The disease produces a range of symptoms ranging from the mild to the life threatening; however, with adequate medical treatment most sufferers lead a normal life. It is estimated that some 1.5 million Americans are affected by the disease which is more common in women of childbearing age (15-50) than other segments of the population. Lupus is a chronic disease that may attack almost any part of the human body including the eyes. So is glaucoma a symptom of lupus? Well, the answer is that it might be.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions, which can result in loss of vision. Since glaucoma is a gradual, progressive disease, experts estimate that up to half of those who suffer from it are unaware that they have the condition during its early stages. It is estimated that 4 million Americans suffer from glaucoma and 120 000 Americans have lost their sight to the disease. According to the WHO, glaucoma is the second greatest cause of blindness in the world behind cataracts. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying the images produced by the eye to the brain. Early detection of the condition is imperative since there is no cure for the disease and treatment focuses on preventing further deterioration. For this reason, regular eye check-ups are a very good idea.
As we noted above, glaucoma involves damage to the optic nerve. One mechanism by which this can occur is due to raised intra-ocular pressure (indeed, this was once believed to be the main cause of the condition) where the pressure within the eye itself rises, causing pressure to be put on the optic nerve. Since lupus does result in inflammation of the tissues that the body’s immune system is attacking, the condition will lead to increased intra-ocular pressure if the disease affects the eye. So then, is glaucoma a symptom of lupus? Yes, it is a symptom of lupus, but may very well not be related to the disease since glaucoma has other causes as well.
What Other Conditions Cause glaucoma?
Probably the best-known cause of glaucoma is diabetes and people with the condition are advised to have a dilated eye examination at least once every two years. Hypertension has also been linked to the disease and certain ethnic groups (Asians and black people notably) are more susceptible to the illness. It can also be caused by prolonged steroid use and inadequate drainage of the aqueous humour or be congenital in nature.
- Glaucoma Research Foundation: https://www.glaucoma.org/learn/what_is_glaucom.php
- Lupus Foundation of America: https://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_learnunderstanding.aspx?articleid=2232&zoneid=523
- Lupus Foundation of America: https://www.lupus.org/webmodules/webarticlesnet/templates/new_learnaffects.aspx?articleid=2380&zoneid=526