Just as with so many symptoms affecting people with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), there has been no significant clinical research into a possible link between CRPS and problems with eyesight. However, the anecdotal evidence of a link is strong.
Many things can affect eyesight, not least age and genetics. However, other conditions, including some (like CRPS) with an autoimmune aspect such as Diabetes, Sarcoidosis and Ankylosing Spondylitis, have long been proven to result in often serious eye problems.
What eye symptoms do people with CRPS commonly experience?
Whilst not affecting everybody, people suffering CRPS commonly report blurred vision, double vision, poor focus, light sensitivity and “dry eye”. Less commonly, I have had two clients with CRPS who developed drooping eyes.
Of course, these symptoms could be coincidental, but as with so many facets of CRPS, the weight of anecdotal evidence tends to suggest otherwise. However, without published clinical research, much of the medical profession remain, at best, sceptical. This is particularly the case in the UK where the medical profession seem less inclined than in other countries to accept the spread, let alone the primary development, of CRPS beyond the extremities.
Can the eye be the primary site for developing CRPS?
We have discussed in an earlier article the fact that pre-existing CRPS and surgery are unhappy bed fellows. However, there are also reports of primary diagnoses of CRPS being made following trauma or surgery to the eye.
One interesting case I read* involved a man who was referred to a pain clinic with deep seated pain, swelling and discomfort over his left eye following what was described as “a trivial swipe injury to his eye from the tail of a cow.” The initial symptoms of redness and a watery eye subsided with eye drops and the man made a seemingly uneventful recovery within a few weeks. However, after two months his condition deteriorated.
His doctor reported that he “started having deep seated orbital pain associated with swelling off and on around the eye with a mild burning sensation. The patient was taking Diclofenac 100 mg twice daily for one week. On examination, the patient had persistent pain, moist skin over the left eyelid and minimal resolving oedema over the left eyelid. The rest of the examination of the patient was inconclusive. A diagnosis of CRPS I was suspected and he was prescribed Aceclofenac 100 mg BD, along with incremental doses of Gabapentin reaching 300 mg thrice a day for four weeks as an initial management. His pain and oedema improved in one week and he was pain free in three weeks.” Clearly, he was very fortunate.
The primary development of CRPS in and around the eye is rare. In terms of CRPS sufferers where the eye was not the primary site, in no way wishing to downplay those symptoms that are reported, it is fortunate that the most common symptoms do not tend to include burning pain, oedema and allodynia.