Autoimmune diseases can cause issues throughout a person’s body. While some physical side effects of these conditions are predictable, others may surprise those patients who cope with them. You might not expect a condition that affects the intestines to have symptoms that include skin rashes, yet these far-ranging effects aren’t uncommon.
Many autoimmune diseases can affect a person’s vision. It is important to discuss any chronic condition you have with your vision care professional so measures can be taken to preserve your eye health.
What is an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is a condition that causes the cells in a person’s body to attack the body’s own tissues. For many conditions, these attacks seem localized, yet this cellular attack can affect the entire body.
What Autoimmune Diseases Can Affect Vision?
While most autoimmune diseases can affect your vision, eye difficulties happen most often in these conditions:
- Thyroid diseases
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Polyarteritis nodosa
- Reactive arthritis
- Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener’s)
- Behcet’s disease
What Eye Health Challenges Can Autoimmune Diseases Cause?
If you have an autoimmune condition, you might notice these symptoms:
- Dry eyes – Your eyes may not make enough moisture for comfort. This discomfort can often be alleviated with over-the-counter artificial tears, ointments, and gels. Some prescription medications can also help.
- Scleritis – This is an inflammation of the white part of your eye. This may also cause a deep ache within the eye. Scleritis is treated with anti-inflammatory medications and steroids.
- Uveitis – This is an inflammation of the inside of your eye, which is called the uvea. There are several types of uveitis, and most are treated with steroids.
- Optic neuritis – This is a swelling of the optic nerve. It can cause vision difficulties, such as loss of peripheral vision, blurry vision, and pain with eye movements. It may improve without medication, but treatment can help it heal faster.
- Thyroid eye disease – This is also called Graves’ Eye Disease. This occurs when the cells attacking the thyroid begin to attack areas around the eye. It has several treatments.