Crohn’s Disease: Be Aware of These Eye-Related Signs and Symptoms

According to a story from express.co.uk, Crohn’s disease is the more common form of inflammatory bowel disease; therefore, it is typically associated with symptoms that affect the digestive system and intestine. However, in some cases, the disease can cause more systemic symptoms that affect other parts of the body, including the eyes. In fact, eye problems can be among the first indicators of the illness for some patients.

About Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a form of inflammatory bowel disease which can impact any area of the digestive tract. The cause of the illness is not well understood, but a combination of environmental, genetic, bacterial, and immune system factors could play a role; smoking tobacco appears to increase risk. The disease is often identified in the teen years or early adulthood. While abnormal immune system behavior is also present, it is not considered an autoimmune disease. Symptoms include weight loss, abdominal distension, bowel obstruction, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, fatigue, and inflammation spreading to other areas (eyes, joints, etc.). Patients are at an elevated risk of cancer impacting the digestive tract. Treatment includes changes to diet, stopping smoking, steroids, immunosuppressants, and certain surgical operations. Symptoms tend to relapse and remit, and some patients are able to live mostly normal lives. However, there is no cure for Crohn’s disease and treatment must continue for life. Patients have a slightly reduced life expectancy. To learn more about Crohn’s disease, click here.

The Eyes Have It

Crohn’s disease has been linked to inflammation and irritation that can affect the eyes. Just one or both eyes can be affected; researchers have found that around ten percent of patients report eye problems as their first symptoms. Eye problems can be painful and can even cause vision loss, though this is uncommon. Some eye conditions that have been linked to Crohn’s disease include:

  1. Episcleritis – This is inflammatory disease affecting the episclera, which is a thin layer of tissue that lies between the sclera (which forms the white of the eye) and the conjunctiva. The white portion of the eye becomes red and the eyes become watery, but there is usually no pain.
  2. Uveitis – Inflammation of the uvea, a pigmented layer between the retina and the sclera/cornea. It should be treated promptly and can cause burning, eye redness, headaches, photophobia, and blurred vision. Learn more about this disease here.
  3. Keratopathy – This condition causes small lumps to appear on the cornea, causing symptoms such as watery eyes, burning, the feeling of having something stuck in the eye, dry eyes, blurred vision, and photophobia. 
  4. Dry eyes – abnormal eye dryness, which can lead to redness and irritation.

If you begin experiencing these symptoms, particularly in conjunction with digestive problems, it may be time to talk to your doctor.

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