Although autoimmune conditions may predominantly affect one organ system, they are systemic diseases and can therefore cause complications in other parts of the body, including the eye.
- Ocular manifestations are not specific to the autoimmune disease and require a high level of clinical suspicion by the GP to recognise.
- Prompt recognition and management of complications may decrease visual morbidity.
- Optic neuritis is the presenting sign of multiple sclerosis in 20% of cases.
- Visual disturbance is the presenting complaint in 25 to 50% of patients with giant cell arteritis.
- Up to 25% of patients with rheumatoid arthritis experience ocular involvement.
- Some medications used in the management of autoimmune disease have ocular side effects and patients require regular screening.
- A collaborative approach between the GP and ophthalmologist in the evaluation and treatment of patients with ocular complications of systemic disease is essential for effective management.