Lyme Disease: Don't Let It Ruin Your Vision

Did you know that a routine eye exam can detect signs of Lyme disease? This tick-borne illness, spread by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi starts out as a rash and can lead to a wide variety of symptoms, such as joint pain and fatigue. 

If left untreated, the infection can spread to your heart, your nervous system, and even your eyes. Our team of doctors at Integrative Medica can play a role in early diagnosis by spotting the signs during a specialized exam.

What is Lyme disease?

Each year an estimated 300,000 people are infected with Lyme disease. You’re more likely to get Lyme disease if you spend time in grassy or wooded areas. The infection is spread through a bite from a deer tick. A characteristic bulls-eye rash is an early sign. Other symptoms at the early stages include:

Lyme disease often goes undiagnosed. Symptoms may come and go or may be attributed to something else. The infection can cause eye inflammation and put your vision at risk.

Visual symptoms of Lyme disease

You may not have visual symptoms in the early stages of Lyme disease. This is why doctor’s visits are crucial: if you do have visual symptoms of lyme disease, you’re most likely to experience:

Regardless of whether you suspect that you might have Lyme disease, it’s wise to call us if you experience sudden or gradual changes in your vision. This can point to other underlying visual problems, too.

Other symptoms of Lyme disease to watch out for are:

How Lyme disease affects the eyes

As Lyme disease progresses, it can spread and cause parts of your eyes to become inflamed. Affected areas may include the cornea, the iris, and blood vessels in the eye. Lyme disease can cause various eye problems. Here are a few: 

Optic neuritis

Lyme disease can cause eye inflammation that damages the optic nerve. This is known as optic neuritis. The optic nerve of the eye is a bundle of nerve fibers that send visual information to your brain. Eye pain is a common symptom. 


People with Lyme disease may develop photophobia, which is a sensitivity to light. This doesn’t refer to the brief sensitivity you may experience when going from a dark environment to an area with bright light. If you have photophobia, you experience a constant discomfort and pain from light that can greatly impact your daily life.

Retinal vasculitis

The systemic inflammation Lyme disease causes can affect the blood vessels in your retina. Inflammation of the retinal blood vessels is known as retinal vasculitis. The walls of the blood vessels can become damaged as a result and narrow or weaken, affecting your vision.

Your retina is the innermost light-sensitive part of your eye. It’s a thin layer of tissue in the back of your eye. The retina receives light and converts the light into signals sent to your brain. Blood vessels supply oxygenated blood to your eyes. Problems arise when inflammation damages these blood vessels.

Symptoms of retinal vasculitis include:

Importance of comprehensive eye exams

We can spot various major health risks, including diabetes, with a comprehensive exam. Many conditions, such as high blood pressure can affect your eyes without your awareness. These diseases are often referred to as “silent” because they can damage your body for months and years before symptoms become apparent.

Proper diagnosis of Lyme disease is traditionally tricky because it can imitate other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia. That’s where specialized exams can help. 

Integrative Medica provides the highest quality of care to residents in Salt Lake City and surrounding areas. Treating patients of all ages, Integrative Medica combines old-fashioned personalized attention with the latest technology available. Schedule an appointment through online booking now or call the office at 801-406-1939.

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