Sarcoidosis is a chronic inflammatory condition that results in the formation of granulomas, which are small clumps of cells. Granulomas grow in the body’s tissues and organs. Granulomas can exacerbate inflammation and cause tissue damage.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, sarcoidosis can affect the eyes in up to 60% of people. Researchers aren’t sure why some sarcoidosis patients experience ocular involvement and others don’t.
Symptoms of Ocular Sarcoidosis
Depending on which part of the eye is impaired, different symptoms and vision problems may arise, including the following:
Uveitis: The uvea, which is the middle layer of tissue in the eye’s wall, is inflamed in uveitis. The iris, choroid, and ciliary body are all found here.
Changes in eyelid: Changes in the eyelid, such as thickening of the skin, may be a sign of ocular sarcoidosis. Granulomas can also cause inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the membrane that covers the eye.
Blood vessel inflammation: Other sections of the eye, such as the blood vessels and nerves that surround it, as well as the tear-producing glands, may become inflamed as well.
The signs and symptoms of ocular sarcoidosis may appear unexpectedly or gradually. They can resolve in a few months in some cases, but ocular involvement can last for months in others. Among the signs and symptoms are:
● Blurry vision
● Photophobia (sensitivity to bright lights)
● Pain in the eyes
● Floaters (lines on vision or black spots)
● Itchy, dry eyes
● Burning sensation in the eye
● Loss of central vision
Treatments for Ocular Sarcoidosis
Treatment for ocular sarcoidosis varies according to the severity of the inflammation and symptoms. The following treatments can be used:
Systemic steroids: Steroids can help to minimize inflammation. Steroid eye drops have fewer side effects than systemic steroids. Weight gain, anxiety, and sleeping problems are also possible side effects.
Eye Drops: Corticosteroid eye drops help reduce inflammation and other steroid eye drops are often used to treat uveitis and inflammation of the tear glands. Additional forms of eye drops may be used in some situations such as cycloplegics that dilate the pupil of the eye and reduces muscle spasms. This could help with the discomfort that comes with the disease.
Immunosuppressive medications: When steroid therapy fails to reduce inflammation, immune-suppressing medicine can be used. Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease caused by an immune system response that is irregular. Medication that suppresses the immune system’s response can help to reduce the formation of granulomas and eye inflammation.
Patients who take this form of drug must have their side effects closely monitored by their healthcare provider.
Frequent eye examinations: Because of the chronic inflammation, people with ocular sarcoidosis may be at a higher risk for other eye conditions including cataracts. Regular eye tests are essential to detect signs of eye disorders that may jeopardize vision.