By: Emily Lucca
Fibromyalgia is an autoimmune condition that causes chronic mental and physical problems, including fatigue, pain, and even psychological distress.
Research shows that over 6 million people in the United States alone are affected by this condition.
According to NFA, or National Fibromyalgia Association, symptoms of fibromyalgia can also include disturbances in sleep, sensitive skin, headaches, dizziness and impairments in coordination, dry eyes, and problems with vision- even potentially leading to blindness.
The effects that fibromyalgia have on the eyes can severely impact an individual’s ability to perform daily activities, such as driving- especially at night.
Also, detailed work, such as sewing can be affected because fibromyalgia can cause an individual to have blurry or double vision.
What Could Happen to the Eyes of a Fibromyalgia Patient?
First of all, let’s start off by listing what can possibly happen to the eyes of an individual with fibromyalgia. In general, these are:
- Dry eyes
- Tearing up of the eyes
- Blurry/Double vision
- Sensitivity to light/touch
- Problems focusing
- General eye pain
- Eye pain when moving the eyes
- Floaters/Flashing lights
- Distorted vision
- Transitioning from looking at something near vs. far
- Macular degeneration
- Frequently changing glasses prescription
- Problems wearing contacts
Though the above problems can occur with or without fibromyalgia medications, they tend to be worse in most cases, due to the medications that were given.
Following, we will discuss in more detail some of the most common eye problems when it comes to fibromyalgia.
In an individual with fibromyalgia, the symptoms of dry eyes can range from mild to severe. Fibromyalgia tends to dry out the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose as well as the eyes.
This condition is called “sicca” and can make it virtually impossible to wear contacts due to the discomfort.
Some experts say that tear production could be decreased in around 90 percent of individuals with fibromyalgia and could be worsened by nutritional deficiencies as well as several medications.
Sensitivity to Light
Fibromyalgia can cause an individual to be sensitive to light. This means that individuals with fibromyalgia must wear very dark glasses any time they plan on being outdoors.
This sensitivity to light has to do with how the hypothalamus responds to the light stimulus.
Additionally, individuals with fibromyalgia could be affected by light emitted from the television or computer screen, as well as fluorescent lights (yes, get rid of those energy saving light bulbs if you have fibromyalgia- they’re not good for you), and even the headlights of cars.
Pain in the Eye
The National Fibromyalgia Association says that the pain associated with fibromyalgia is chronic and widespread. This includes pain in or near the eyes.
This pain could be increased due to lack of sleep, fatigue, stress, and anxiety. The fibromyalgia pain affects the ocular muscles and can cause the eyes to be misaligned, which could also cause double or blurry vision (more on that in a bit).
Occasionally, individuals with fibromyalgia could actually develop a thick mucus over their eyes. This layer of mucus can impair vision, making some activities, such as driving at night, very dangerous.
Blurry and double vision are very common in individuals who have fibromyalgia and in many cases can be linked to other symptoms such as postural dizziness or vertigo.
Sensitivity to Touch
There are some individuals with fibromyalgia that can’t wear glasses because the weight of the glasses on their face triggers the nerves in the neck and face, causing pain. This pain then radiates to the ears, nose, and even teeth.
Though it is rare, and typically only occurs in those with RA, fibromyalgia really can lead to blindness.
The condition can result in arteritis, which is inflammation in one or both of the temporal arteries.
Without properly and rapidly treating this with high doses of steroids, the inflammation can end up spreading to the optical nerve, therefore resulting in partial or total blindness in the eye that is affected.
Coping with Fibromyalgia
Learning how to manage your fibromyalgia signs and symptoms is necessary to get relief from these eye conditions and the other pain associated with fibromyalgia.
Get the facts about fibromyalgia and find out the best ways to treat it. You will need to take proactive steps and put more focus on your personal health.
Following are a few coping strategies that you can implement to help yourself cope with fibromyalgia.
1- Minimize stress/Remove yourself from stressful conditions- it has been shown that stress/stressful conditions can cause fibromyalgia flare-ups.
2- Make modifications in your job site- talk to your boss about coming in later or staying later- take your time getting things done, don’t rush yourself (and therefore stress yourself out).
3- Improve communication skills- learn to be honest about your pain and fatigue to your loved ones, so that they understand more about your condition.
4- Learn how to say “NO”- set personal limits on what you’ll do for people- if a commitment will keep you from taking care of yourself, say no to it.
5- Keep a journal of your signs/symptoms and triggers- this can help you identify what it is that is causing your flare-ups and what makes them go away.
6- Soak in a warm bath- this will help relax tense muscles, and therefore reduce pain and help you move with greater ease.
7- Regularly exercise- aerobic exercise, especially has antidepressant and analgesic effects on your body- it can help you have a better sense of well-being and make you feel more in control.
8- Reduce/eliminate caffeine from your diet- caffeine can trigger a fibromyalgia flare-up. Getting it out of your diet completely can help to control signs and symptoms.
9- Implement mind/body relaxation techniques- this can bring you into a calmer, more peaceful state of mind, thereby helping you to relax and rest much better.
10- Pay attention to your sleep conditions- turn off the electronics!
11- Join a support group for fibromyalgia- it helps to know there are others suffering from the same condition
12- Take time for yourself- each day, work on doing things that you “want” to do, instead of things you “have” to do. Make sure to have your priorities in order so that you have sufficient energy to complete your goals.