The theme for World Sight Day 2022 is ‘Love Your Eyes’. This day aims to raise public awareness around the global issue of eye health. Did you know vision problems aren’t just caused by the eyes? They can also be caused by a number of illnesses or health disorders. Yes, that is true. Many chronic conditions can affect your eyesight. So, if you’re living with any of the following health issues, you need to keep going for eye check ups before it’s too late.
Health Shots got in touch with Dr Priyanka Singh, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Neytra Eye Centre, New Delhi, to discuss the chronic health issues that can lead to eyesight problems.
Long-term high blood sugar levels can harm blood vessels throughout the body, including those in the retina. The tiny blood vessels that enter the retina may bleed or leak if sugar inhibits them. To combat it, new blood vessels are grown by the eyes that are weaker and may bleed or leak easily. This leaking might cause the eye to fill up with fluid, which would cause the retina to enlarge and impair vision. This condition is termed as Diabetic Retinopathy which results due to the damage caused to blood vessels because of diabetes.
Just like high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure can also damage the blood vessels. High blood pressure can cause the blood vessels in the retina to thicken, which will reduce the amount of blood that can reach it. Without sufficient blood flow, the delicate tissues in the eyes become injured, which can result in macular edoema and vitreous haemorrhage, optic nerve injury, and fluid accumulation under the retina. This condition is known as Hypertensive Retinopathy.
The myelin sheath, which protects the optic nerve and aids in quick and effective signal transmission from the eyes to the brain for interpretation, is attacked by the immune system. As a result, the signalling is compromised, which causes an inflammation of the optic nerve and rapid loss of eyesight. This is referred to as optic neuritis. This condition leads to experiencing pain in the movement of the eyes, blurred vision, loss of color vision, a hole in the centre of the vision, headache, and blindness in some rare cases.
Due to similarities between the receptors present in the cells behind the eyes and those found in thyroid cells, such as in Graves’ disease, overactive thyroid causes antibodies to also be directed against those cells. This causes Graves’ ophthalmopathy or Graves’ orbitopathy. Eye irritation, swollen eyelids, redness and inflammation of the conjunctiva, proptosis, and double vision are the signs of the aforementioned conditions. In some severe cases, a decrease in eye movement and optic nerve compression, incomplete closure of the eye, corneal ulceration and rarely, loss of vision is seen.
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In autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) the immune system starts attacking one’s own body tissues. Thus, the uvea’s vascular components, including the iris, ciliary body, and choroid, exhibit an inflammatory reaction, and the aforementioned situation results in autoimmune uveitis. It affects and causes inflammation in every part of the eye and it leads to sudden loss of vision, severe pain and increased pressure.
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Dr Singh says, “It is imperative to maintain a healthy lifestyle, diet and to keep track of health issues by regularly going for health check-ups and screenings. If you have pre-existing eye problems, having an eye check-up once in a year is advisable.”
A timely diagnosis can help not only to keep track of health but will also help in addressing any prospective health issues.
On this World Sight Day, we urge you to visit an ophthalmologist to have your eyes examined and receive the best vision-related advice if you’re suffering from any of these health issues.