Sickle Cell Disease And Eye Health
Did you know 2,000,000 people in the United States have sickle cell traits in their DNA? Yet, many people do not know what sickle cell disease is and even fewer understand how it affects their vision.
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle Cell disease is a blood disorder that affects the red blood cells. Healthy blood cells are circular with a protein called hemoglobin that distributes oxygen through the body. Sickled blood cells are shaped like crescent moons because of abnormal hemoglobin proteins. They block the even distribution of oxygen to the body by sticking to the blood vessels. Sickle Cell disease can cause anemia, infection, pain, organ damage and even death. This disease is inherited genetically and affects certain ethnicities more than others.
How Does Sickle Cell Disease Affect Vision?
According to the Association of Optometrists sickled blood cells can negatively affect the front and the back of the eye in a number of ways.
- Sickle cells can wither away the iris. (focal iris atrophy)
- Inflammation on the outside of the eye. (anterior chamber flare)
- A pool of blood can form inside the eye. (hyphema)
- The blood vessels on the inside of the retina can get blocked and tear the retina. (sickle cell retinopathy)
- In more severe cases the retina can become detached. (retinal detachment)
Early Detection Of Sickle Cell Disease Leads to Better Eye Health Management
A yearly exam at FSN Eye can help detect the early signs of vision loss due to sickle cell disease. A dilated fundas exam will allow the doctor to check the interior and exterior health of the eye by looking at the optic nerve head, blood vessels, and retina.