Systemic illnesses are those that affect several organs or even the whole body. A higher percentage of these diseases affects the eye, which is among the vital organs of the body. In many cases, the examination of the eye is a diagnostic approach to many systemic diseases. One of the main reasons is that the eye is exposed to various tissues (Fujishima 1996). In addition, the human eyes provide insights into other body systems. As a result, they become susceptible to many diseases. Examining any part of the eye can provide a hint to various systemic diseases. Many of these illnesses exhibit their signs on the eyes’ outer surface. Some of the eye parts portraying the presence of systemic diseases are eyelids, cornea, conjunctiva, retina and the middle eye (Hom & De Land 2006).
Rationale behind Effects of Systemic Diseases on Eyes
There is a close relationship between the eyes and the central nervous system of the body. The movement of the eyes and optic nerves reflects the status of the central nervous system (Piper, Douglas & Treharne 2007). It is important to note that a large portion of the human brain provides the eyes with the visual information. The brain also controls the movement of the eyes. The structure of the eyes has a unique transparency and doctors can easily see its internal parts. The only body organ a doctor can examine directly and see its blood vessels is the eye. The conditions of the eyes’ blood vessels show the health status of the body. It is because the blood vessels area connected to the entire body (Fujishima 1996).
Systemic Diseases and Their Effects on the Eye
As stated earlier, many systemic diseases have different effects on the human eyes. Diabetes is one of the systemic diseases that affect the normal functionality of the eyes. The health condition can cause severe complications to the eyes. These include internal bleeding, abnormal growth of new blood vessels in the retina and the swelling of the retina, a condition called macular edema (Fujishima 1996). Doctors examine changes in the retina’s blood vessel and fluctuations in visions to ascertain the presence of diabetes in the body. The effect of diabetes on the retina is the major cause of blindness among many people. The condition is referred to as the diabetic retinal disease. Moreover, the diabetic people are easier to develop cataracts than those with other forms of diseases. Therefore, it is advisable for a diabetic patient to have a regular eye examination (Hom & De Land 2006).
Another systemic disease, which can cause infections to the eyes, is AIDS. Some of the problems it can cause include the eyelid tumors, neuro-ophthalmic disorders and retinal detachment. Moreover, AIDS can also cause blindness among patients. However, effective treatment of the eye problems caused by AIDS-related infections is available in the medical realm (Piper, Douglas & Treharne 2007). AIDS is also associated with the abnormal retinal circulation. It explains why doctors consider retinal abnormalities as the initial symptom of AIDS. Another systemic disease linked to eye problems is the Graves ’ disease. It causes problems such as proptosis or protruding eyes, double vision, corneal disease and limited eye movement. When the Graves’ disease is severe, it can lead to the destruction of the optic nerve (Hom & De Land 2006).
Sarcoidosis is a systemic disease, which causes the inflammation of the eye, a condition known as uveitis. The condition makes the eyes to be painful, red and exhibit blurred vision. Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus erythematosus are other systemic diseases, which cause inflammation of sclera (Piper, Douglas & Treharne 2007). As a result, the eyes become dry. High blood pressure causes destruction to the blood vessels of the retina. The damage can cause severe complications not only to the eye but also to other parts of the body. A diagnosis of eyes with changed blood vessels determines the possibility of having high blood pressure. Other systemic diseases that cause health problems to eyes are a sickle cell, sclerosis and cancer (Fujishima 1996).
Many people present with ocular health conditions caused by systemic diseases. It is advisable to treat both the ocular symptoms and the fundamental health conditions. Diabetes interferes with the neuropathic, vascular and neuropathic systems leading to the inflammation of eyes (Hom & De Land 2006). Therefore, a doctor can prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs, antioxidants and anabolic agents with effects similar to those of insulin. Moreover, autologous serum is a special medication use to avert the ocular surface among diabetic patients. Additionally, a research indicates that artificial tears could be used as an ocular lubricant to avert the dryness of the eye (Fujishima 1996). As an immunomodulation agent, doctors often recommend topical cyclosporine as the medicine for dry eyes. As the systemic health conditions are treated, the doctors should also examine and treat the conditions of the eye (Piper, Douglas & Treharne 2007).
For any problem of the eye discussed in the above sections, an essential thing is to visit an ophthalmologist to have the eyes examined. The specialist should coordinate with the primary physician of the patient to get more information about the systemic disease that has caused the eye problem. The coordination between the medical professionals will help in treating systemic diseases and reduce their effects on the eyes.
Fujishima, H 1996, ‘Improvement of corneal sensation and tear dynamics in diabetic patients by oral aldose reductase inhibitor, ONO-2235: a preliminary study’, Cornea, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 368-375.
Hom, M & De Land, P 2006, ‘Self-reported dry eyes and diabetic history’, Optometry, vol. 77, no. 11, pp. 554-558.
Piper, H, Douglas, M & Treharne, J 2007, ‘Prevalence and predictors of ocular manifestations of RA: is there a need for routine screening?’, Musculoskeletal Care, vol. 5, no. 2, pp. 102-117.