Sarcoidosis is a disorder that causes the growth of granulomas throughout the body. These clumps of cells may develop slowly over time, often producing no symptoms until the condition has progressed considerably. Depending on where the growths have formed, a patient can suffer symptoms in many different body systems—and over 25 percent of sarcoidosis patients experience symptoms that affect the eyes.
Complications and Symptoms of Sarcoidosis of the Eyes
In addition to fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and weight loss, patients with sarcoidosis can also have trouble seeing and experience visual disturbances that can lead to blindness. It is vital for patients who have been diagnosed with sarcoidosis to undergo comprehensive eye examinations every year, and to report any vision changes to their doctors to begin treatment as soon as possible.
The most commonly-reported eye complications of sarcoidosis include:
- Eye pain. Patients with sarcoidosis may have chronic eye problems, including burning, itching, stinging, redness, tearing, or severe dry eyes. Light sensitivity is also common, causing pain in the eyes as well as chronic headaches. Patients who are experiencing these symptoms may get some relief through prescription eye drops, dilation of the pupils, or prescription eyewear. Doctors may also numb the eyes to reduce spasms in the pupillary muscles, or prescribe medications to lower blood pressure to relieve pain in the eyes.
- Uveitis. Inflammation of the uvea, or uveitis, in one of the most dangerous eye problems sarcoidosis can cause. The uvea sits between the sclera and the retina in the center of the eye. In patients with sarcoidosis, white blood cells may collect on the inside of the eye, causing the iris, lens, and other structures of the eye to stick together. This can cause a number of problems, including increased ocular pressure, pain, redness, extreme light sensitivity, and even blindness. The longer uveitis is left untreated, the more likely it is that the condition will cause vision problems. Treatments for uveitis are typically painless, and involve steroid drops, injections to relieve pressure, or oral medications to bring down the inflammation.
- Vision problems. Ocular sarcoidosis can cause a wide range of visual problems, such as blurred vision, floaters (small particles inside the eye that “float” in a person’s field of vision), color blindness, or even total loss of eyesight. Some sarcoidosis patients also have small yellow bumps on their eyes that cause visual distractions and eye irritation. These conditions may be reversible if treated quickly, so sarcoidosis patients should see a doctor immediately if they experience changes in their vision.
Collecting Disability for the Effects of Sarcoidosis
The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows claimants to collect Social Security disability for sarcoidosis if they are no longer able to earn a living. Patients who have suffered total blindness will likely qualify for automatic benefits, but others may have to prove the extent of their conditions to the SSA before they can collect payment.
If your sarcoidosis symptoms do not meet the Blue Book disability listing, you may still qualify for benefits based on your Residual Functional Capacity (RFC). One of the biggest benefits of getting disability based on RFC is that Social Security considers the full scope of your physical condition when assessing your work limitations. This means that a person who is experiencing symptoms of a variety of conditions and treatments could be considered disabled even if he or she does not meet the criteria for any disability listing by itself. You will have to provide extensive medical proof of your diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment, as well as any work-related difficulties you are facing due to your disability.
If you are unable to work due to the limitations of your sarcoidosis, we can help. Please fill out the form on this page today to speak to an attorney about your disability benefits, or download our free report, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions About Social Security Disability.