One of the symptoms / risk factors that often gets overlooked in people with Still’s Disease is inflammation of eye, which can lead to future eyesight problems and even blindness. I’m sure none of us would want to have to deal with that on top of everything else, so why is it given so little attention?
Eye involvement seems to be more common in younger children with Still’s, in some progressing so quickly that they soon lose their vision entirely and in others, so severe that it requires additional medication to treat it, on top of the cocktail of meds they already take. Eye problems can even appear before other symptoms of childhood Still’s Disease develop and could provide an early indication of the disease. More often, it follows the same pattern as joint / systemic flares, but eye involvement can continue once these symptoms have subsided too.
And eye problems can also affect adults with Still’s Disease. As well as the risks the disease itself brings, there are the additional risk factors of age, ‘normal’ degeneration, high blood pressure, type II Diabetes and then of course medication since many medications used to treat Still’s – Prednisolone being a major player here – increase your risk of developing glaucoma, uveitis, iritis, visual disturbance etc.
Unfortunately, eye involvement does not always obvious present itself with obvious symptoms and it can be hard to detect, especially in children, meaning that damage can be done before you even know you’re affected. Sometimes there may be some visual disturbances – flashes, floaters or blurred vision – but it is generally not painful and there are no outward signs of inflammation such as redness, although with cataracts there may be some cloudiness.
Left untreated many conditions that involve inflammation of the eye can cause scarring and permanent damage to the eye. But how do we become aware of and/or prevent this from happening by treating it quickly?
Easy. It is very important that we all get regular check ups on our eyes at the opticians or by an eye doctor. Most advise at least every six months, especially if you are on long term steroid treatment. This is a painless procedure and will quickly highlight any problems affecting the eye. For some there may be a cost involved but it’s surely a small price to pay to look after your eyesight.
Speaking of which, I had my check-up yesterday. I’d been noticing I had a lot more floaters and tiny sparks in my vision, especially when reading, plus my eyes have been very dry. I wear glasses to use the computer and to read but otherwise my eyes have always been good; I have to be careful though since my dad has recently developed Glaucoma and my aunt has cataracts and Sjrogrens (alongside her Lupus).
My eye exam started with the doctor taking photographs of the back of my eyes. These show the blood vessels in the eye and give a clear view of the optic nerve; any damage to these structures is easy to spot. They then checked the pressure inside my eyes on a machine that blows blasts of air. Yep, it doesn’t half make you jump but it doesn’t hurt I promise. Then she had a good look with various lights and microscopes, before asking me to read the usual test board with each eye. I did better than I expected on this, as I thought my eyesight was getting pretty bad but actually it’s not! My prescription had barely changed and she felt that the visual disturbances were down to changes in my medication, which makes sense. I did treat myself to a new pair of glasses though, considering I’ve had this last pair for about 7 years.
In total it took me about half an hour. I was once again told that it was extremely important to keep up with my eye exams and booked in for my next appointment in six months time.
You can read more about Still’s Disease and Eye involvement here and I will post some further information on specific conditions when I get the chance.
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