Your Eyes and Sarcoidosis

Elderly eye
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Sarcoidosis is a disease that may affect many different organs of the body, but mostly affects the lungs. The disease causes small masses of tissue clumps, called granulomas, to form, leading to damaged or malfunctioning organs in the body. The disease usually occurs in adults ages 20 to 40 years of age.

Some sarcoidosis patients complain of tiredness or fatigue, frequent fevers, weight loss and an overall feeling of ill health, although some patients have no symptoms at all. Symptoms vary widely, depending on the organ that sarcoidosis affects. Although sarcoidosis most often affects the lungs, lymph nodes, and liver, it can also cause problems with the spleen, brain, nerves, heart, tear glands, salivary glands, sinuses, bones, and joints.

What About the Eyes?

Anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of sarcoidosis patients have symptoms that affect the eyes. Many of these patients complain of burning, itching, redness, dry eyes and sometimes watery eyes. Some patients report blurred vision and may complain of sensitivity to sunlight. Sarcoidosis patients also have small, pale yellow bumps on the eye.

The most severe eye problem that sarcoidosis patients may face is a condition called uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea or blood-rich membranes in the eye. The uvea is located in the center of the eye, between the sclera and the retina. In uveitis, white blood cells rush to the front of the eye, making the eye very sticky. This stickiness can cause internal structures such as the iris and lens to stick together, sometimes resulting in an increase in eye pressure. Patients may complain of pain in their eye as well as redness, and mild to extreme light sensitivity. Although rare, blindness may occur if the uveitis is left untreated.

If you are diagnosed with sarcoidosis, a comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist is recommended for the first few years after the diagnosis, and then as recommended.