South African Family Practice

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The eye in systemic disease

M Lenake, N Du Toit


The eye is a unique organ which is often involved in systemic disease. Patients with systemic disease may first present with eye pathology, and patients with known systemic illnesses may need to have their eyes specifically checked for ocular complications. It is thus useful for the physician to be familiar with the ocular manifestations of common systemic diseases at primary care level. Diseases like diabetes, herpes zoster ophthalmicus and thyroid ophthalmopathy often involve the eyes, and if the eye signs are not identified early, the visual consequences can be devastating. Diabetic retinopathy is an important cause of blindness in this country. These, as well as common ocular manifestations of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome, syphilis, some dermatological conditions and the ocular side-effects of certain
drugs, are discussed in this article. It is important for the primary care physician to be familiar with the spectrum of ocular involvement in systemic diseases since appropriate intervention and referral can be sight saving for the patient.
AJOL African Journals Online