Am Fam Physician 2002 Sep 15;66(6):991-8
Patel SJ, Lundy DC.
Naval Medical Center, San Diego, California, USA.
Rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren's syndrome, the seronegative spondyloarthropathies, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, giant cell arteritis, and Graves' disease are autoimmune disorders commonly encountered by family physicians.
These autoimmune disorders can have devastating systemic and ocular effects.
Ocular symptoms may include dry or red eyes, foreign-body sensation, pruritus, photophobia, pain, visual changes, and even complete loss of vision.
Because a number of these diseases may initially present with ocular symptoms, physicians should maintain a high index of suspicion to make a timely diagnosis.
A thorough ophthalmic examination, including visual acuity, pupillary reaction, ocular motility, confrontation field testing, external inspection, and direct ophthalmoscopy with fluorescein staining, should be completed.
In the patient with the complaint of a "dry eye" or a "red eye," simple tools such as the Schirmer's test or the blanching effect of phenylephrine can be useful in diagnosis.
In general, managing the systemic effects with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressive agents controls the ocular symptoms.
When visual function is threatened, surgical therapy may be necessary.
Early and accurate diagnosis with prompt treatment or referral to an ophthalmologist may prevent systemic and ocular disabilities.