People affected by psoriasis are often unaware that they have an increased risk of developing dry eyes and eye inflammation (uveitis). The human eye is one of the organs best supplied with blood in our body. It is therefore often affected by autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Patients with psoriasis therefore suffer from dry eyes and eye inflammation much more frequently than healthy people.
Not least due to the ignorance of those affected, eye complaints are only rarely associated with psoriasis and are therefore unfortunately not taken seriously at an early stage. Fatal, considering that uveitis is the second most common cause of blindness in adults in Germany.
- What do you have to pay attention to as a psoriasis sufferer?
- What is uveitis?
- How are eye complaints (dry eye, uveitis) treated?
- What can you pay attention to in everyday life to avoid inflammation of the eye?
Open your eyes to psoriasis
Most people associate the term psoriasis with a skin disease. What many people do not know – a chronic disease like psoriasis often brings with it accompanying diseases. Various organs can be affected, not least the eyes. This is particularly common in patients with psoriatic arthritis. Often the eyelids are affected, but also the inner areas such as the tear glands. The symptoms then range from dry eyes (sicca syndrome) to severe inflammation inside the eye (uveitis).
Psoriasis and dry eyes
Patients with psoriasis often suffer from dry eyes. What at first sounds harmless can have far-reaching consequences. Ophthalmologists refer to this as sicca syndrome. This is a disorder of tear formation. This leads to the cornea and conjunctiva of the eye not being supplied with sufficient moisture.
Sicca Syndrome symptoms:
Sicca Syndrome can be recognized by the following symptoms:
- Red, burning or very itchy eyes.
- The feeling of having a foreign body in the eye (e.g. the feeling of rubbing grains of sand on the eye surface).
- Tired eyes.
- Occasionally swollen eyelids.
A dry eye should not go untreated, especially in psoriasis patients. If you notice the above symptoms, you should consult an eye doctor as soon as possible.
A well-functioning tear film not only repels pathogens, but also protects and nourishes the cornea of the eye. Early treatment is therefore urgently needed. By using moisturizing eye drops, ointments or eye sprays, the tear film can be replaced, and the symptoms can be significantly alleviated.
Uveitis with psoriasis
Uveitis is not a rare side effect of psoriasis. This is an inflammation of the vascular skin of the eye. The choroid, the iris or also the radiating bodies can be affected.
Psoriasis sufferers have a three to four times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-affected persons. Particularly in people with psoriatic arthritis, inflammation of the eye is relatively common.
In most cases, inflammation of the eyes proceeds insidiously. Therefore, you should pay special attention to the following symptoms:
- Severe, painful sensitivity to light,
- Blurred vision and
- Reddened eyes.
Uveitis can have far-reaching consequences. Not only can it lead to severe pain or secondary diseases such as glaucoma, but in the worst cases it can even lead to loss of sight. In Germany, uveitis is the second most common cause of blindness in adults.
If you notice any signs that could indicate uveitis, you should definitely see an ophthalmologist so that the eye inflammation can be treated early on.
What are the treatment options for uveitis?
Uveitis associated with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis always requires intensive treatment of the eyes to reduce the inflammation as much as possible.
Therefore, ophthalmologists generally administer anti-inflammatory or cortisone containing preparations to treat uveitis, usually in the form of eye drops or ointments. In some cases, eye surgery may even be necessary.
Interdisciplinary treatment of uveitis between ophthalmologist and dermatologist
Specific medications prescribed by your dermatologist for psoriasis can also have a very positive effect in many cases of uveitis. The advantage is that this means that less cortisone containing agents have to be used for treatment by the ophthalmologists.
In the case of uveitis, your dermatologist and your ophthalmologist should always consult with each other. Only in this way can a coordinated treatment plan be drawn up, which on the one hand has a positive effect on the uveitis and on the other hand does not aggravate the psoriasis.
48-hour rule for eye inflammations
Patients suffering from the disease psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis should urgently consult an ophthalmologist even if they have the slightest problem with their eyes. The cause of a dry or reddened eye can range from a relatively harmless conjunctivitis to dangerous uveitis.
In principle, any negative change in the eyes (redness, limited vision, sensitivity to light, pain, etc.) that does not disappear on its own within 48 hours should definitely be examined by a doctor.
Tips and preventive measures for people affected by uveitis
There are some helpful tips as well as measures that can help you take early and preventive action against dry eyes and eye inflammation such as uveitis:
- The basic rule is: whenever you have any complaints or changes to your eyes, consult an ophthalmologist immediately.
- Eye complaints of any kind require timely treatment by an eye specialist – ideally in consultation with your dermatologist.
- Preventive measures: Regular exercise in fresh air and a sufficient supply of water are good for your eyes.
- Take 5-10 minute breaks from computer work every hour – blink as often as possible.
- Ventilate rooms well.
- Avoid air-conditioned, smoky or strongly heated rooms if possible, otherwise ventilate thoroughly or equip them with humidifiers.
- Important as a contact lens wearer: Wear glasses in between and make sure you wear well fitted contact lenses.
Conclusion – psoriasis in the eyes: What do you have to watch out for?
As a person affected by psoriasis, you should always pay attention to additional diseases. This does not only affect your skin or joints, but especially your eyes. An inflammation of the eyes that is not treated at all or not treated early enough can have serious consequences.
It is therefore essential that you take every slight complaint or change in your eyes seriously and have them examined by a doctor. Especially in the case of uveitis, early detection and treatment are the key to avoiding possible complications and serious consequences.
Have you ever had any experience with an eye inflammation? How did it go in your case?
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Click here to see all the references
– V.: Von scheinbar harmlos bis heftig schmerzend: Psoriasis kann ins Auge gehen. In: PSO current, 2:2011. p. 24.
– Press release of the Professional Association of Ophthalmologists in Germany: Auge kann bei Psoriasis mit betroffen sein, June 15, 2016.
Bernd is one of the founders of Simply Psoriasis. He has been suffering from psoriasis for more than 20 years, but sees the chronic skin disease with more composure than a few years ago (which was a hard work). Nevertheless, he is very keen to make psoriasis easier and more socially accepted.