It’s only human nature to assume pain felt in one part of the body is related to something in the same area. However, this isn’t always the case. For instance, a disc pressing on a nerve in the lower back can trigger radiating nerve pain felt in the hips, thighs, or legs. This same concept can apply to spine-related issues that affect vision. If you have vision impairment, you’re more likely to see an eye doctor than a Beverly Hills spine surgeon. Still, there are some connections between the spine and vision impairment that you should be aware of.
Subluxations (misalignments) of the cervical vertebrae (neck) may be related to vision impairment. In some cases, chiropractic manipulation of the cervical spine corrects symptoms such as blurred vision, dizziness, headaches, and diplopia (double vision). The spine connection may be made with Maddox rod testing, which involves asking the patient to focus on a single point of light created with prisms and a special handheld tool, conducted by an optometrist.
A more common source of spine-related vision impairment is ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a form of arthritis that causes inflammation of spinal joints. Some people assume joint-related aches and pains are a normal part of the aging process. However, if not properly diagnosed and treated, the resulting inflammation may affect other areas, including the eyes.
It’s estimated that approximately 40 percent of individuals with AS may have radiating or deep inflammation affecting the eyes. When this inflammation affects the colored ring around the pupil (iris), it’s a condition called iritis. If the middle layer of the eye is affected, the resulting inflammation is referred to as uveitis. Symptoms related to eye inflammation may include:
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Discomfort in or around the affected eye
- Eye redness
- Decreased or blurry vision
Diagnosis and Treatment of Spine-Related Vision Impairment
Spine-related eye issues may also develop if the central nervous system, which is protected by the spine, is affected or damaged in some way. Because there are many possible causes of blurred vision, dizziness, and similar symptoms, diagnosis often starts with eliminating common eye-related disorders, injuries, or diseases.
If nothing is found, then the focus may shift to the spine. If an issue with the spine is suspected, it’s usually confirmed with a combination of results from a physical exam and image tests. Blood tests are sometimes done to check for certain markers that suggest increased inflammation.
As is the case with spine issues causing radiating nerve pain, treatment is focused on the source of symptoms. For instance, if misalignment issues are suspected, you might be referred to a chiropractor. When AS is likely the source of vision impairment, treatment may involve:
- Therapeutic exercises or stretches to ease pressure on spinal joints
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Posture-related exercises to restore spinal alignment
- Hot and cold applications
Having a weakened immune system or undiagnosed spinal inflammation are among the factors that can set up ideal conditions for tissue swelling that originates in the spine to extend to the eyes. Getting regular exercise and eating foods that naturally fight inflammation may reduce your risk of developing inflammation-based conditions that affect both the spine and the eyes.
Some conditions affecting the cervical spine may be correctable with minimally invasive neck surgery. Beverly Hills residents should reach out to The Spine Institute today to find out if surgery is their best option for relief. Call 310-828-7757 today to schedule an appointment.