Retinal vasculitis in rheumatic diseases: an unseen burden
AuthorAndroudi, S.; Dastiridou, A.; Symeonidis, C.; Kump, L.; Praidou, A.; Brazitikos, P.; Kurup, S. K.
Retinal vascular inflammation, a potentially blinding condition (herein: retinal vasculitis (RV)) is commonly associated with a heterogeneous group of diseases characterized by systemic inflammatory cell infiltration and/or necrosis of blood vessel walls. RV may arise as an isolated ocular disorder, as part of systemic vasculitis (Wegener's granulomatosis and Adamantiadis-Behcet Disease), or it can be secondary to an underlying connective tissue disease (systemic lupus erythematosus, sarcoidosis, and rheumatoid arthritis), systemic infection, or malignancy. Depending on the type of RV, it can be a potentially disabling condition, in the short or long term. Early diagnosis is the key to successful treatment and better prognosis. However, early diagnosis can be difficult, because these conditions usually present with nonspecific visual symptoms for a long period before diagnostic manifestations occur. The retina should be examined in warranted patients with verified rheumatic disease, since retinal vasculitis may be asymptomatic at the beginning (peripheral retinal disease). RV can be detected clinically (often accompanied by uveitis, scleritis, or macular edema) or revealed on fluorescein fundus angiography, even if minimal signs of retinal vessel inflammation are present. RV may also represent one of the possible extra-articular manifestations of the rheumatic disease. Rheumatologists should be familiar with the ocular manifestations of these disorders, since they may not only be sight-threatening, but more importantly, could be the presenting or even the very first manifestations of active, potentially lethal systemic disease in a patient with nonspecific rheumatologic presentation.