5 Ways Autoimmune Diseases Can Affect Your Vision

Autoimmune diseases cause the body’s cells to attack each other, impacting every aspect of your health. Few autoimmune disorders specifically target the eyes. However, due to its systemic nature, an autoimmune disease can affect your vision. While autoimmune diseases have no cure, properly managing symptoms can lessen their progression and impact your health.

Which Autoimmune Diseases Can Affect Your Vision?

Researchers have identified over 80 autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease might attack a specific organ or affect your whole body. However, either type of autoimmune disease can affect your vision.

The autoimmune disorders that might impact your vision include:

  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases, like Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis
  • Thyroid diseases
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Psoriasis
  • Reiter’s syndrome

In addition, certain medications used to treat autoimmune disorders can also adversely impact your vision, including corticosteroids and antimalarials.

5 Ways Autoimmune Disease Can Affect Your Vision

There are several ways an autoimmune disease can affect your vision. However, some common eye-related symptoms include dry eyes, blurry vision, painful eye movements, vision changes, and vision loss.

Schedule a professional eye exam with a knowledgeable optometrist to determine whether an autoimmune disorder caused your vision concerns.

1.   Dry Eyes

Dry eyes occur when you lack tears on the surfaces of your eyes. This condition can cause your eyes to feel gritty and irritated and may lead to blurred vision. When left untreated, dry eyes can permanently damage the cornea, leading to vision loss.

Over-the-counter and prescription medications can add moisture to your eyes’ surface, reducing the severity of your dry eye symptoms.

2.   Blurry Vision

Uveitis is a common cause of blurry vision related to autoimmune diseases. This condition is inflammation that occurs inside the eye, in the uvea. Uveitis can be anterior, intermediate, or posterior, affecting different areas inside the eye. All three types of uveitis can lead to blurry vision.

Blurry vision is a symptom of several autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease. Patients typically respond well to steroid treatments for uveitis.

3.   Painful Eye Movements

Painful eye movements may result from optic neuritis or a swollen optic nerve. Optic neuritis can cause blurry vision, vision loss, and painful eye movements. It is among the most common early signs of multiple sclerosis, affecting up to 50% of patients with MS.

Optic neuritis may resolve independently, but prescription steroids often expedite healing.

4.   Changes in Vision

Autoimmune diseases frequently cause inflammation throughout the body. For example, scleritis is a condition causing inflammation in the white part of the eye or sclera. Inflammation can lead to redness and aching pain. When unaddressed, scleritis can cause permanent damage to your vision.

Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and inflammatory bowel disease can cause scleritis. Anti-inflammatory drugs and steroids can treat the condition.

5.   Complete Vision Loss

Diabetic retinopathy is the primary cause of blindness in American adults. Type 1 diabetes attacks the pancreas, which produces insulin. Without insulin, sugar can’t permeate the cells, leaving it in your bloodstream and causing high blood sugar. Poorly managed diabetes can damage the blood vessels and the eyes’ lenses.

As diabetic retinopathy worsens, blood vessels swell, leaking fluid into the eye. If untreated, this can cause vision loss or retinal detachment. Treatments to stop the progression of diabetic retinopathy include injected medications and laser surgeries.

Protect Your Eyes with Looking Glass Optical

If you have an autoimmune disease, prioritizing your eye health is critical. At Looking Glass Optical, we help you protect your eyes through regular screenings and symptom monitoring. In addition, our staff is happy to work with your specialists to preserve and maintain your overall eye health. Schedule your appointment today!