3 Ways Autoimmune Diseases Can Affect Your Eyes

Posted on: 9 December 2018


Autoimmune diseases can directly or indirectly affect your eyes, which can lead to permanent changes to your vision. As a person with an autoimmune disease, it is important to have routine eye exams and take any changes to your vision seriously.

Medication Side Effects

There are two medications that are frequently used in autoimmune diseases that can eventually affect your eyes. Hydroxychlorquine is used alone or in combination with other disease-modifying medications in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, and it is typically the primary medication for lupus. Regular eye exams are necessary while taking this medication since long-term use can cause damage to the retina. Your rheumatologist will want your eye exams to be done by an ophthalmologist, since these eye exams are more thorough. Steroid use may also contribute to eye problems, mainly because there is an increased risk of cataracts. Since there is also an increased risk of weight gain and changes in blood glucose associated with long-term steroid use, this may also contribute to the possibility of developing cataracts.

Light Sensitivity

Many people with autoimmune diseases have problems with light sensitivity. Since this symptom can also occur with specific eye conditions, it is important to have the problem evaluated to rule-out unrelated and potentially treatable problems. Eye infections or inflammation can also cause light sensitivity. If light sensitivity is not caused by an underlying eye problem, it is generally treated with modifications to your environment. Wearing sunglasses while outdoors or even indoors can help mitigate some of the discomfort associated with light sensitivity. At home, trying different types of lighting might help. Soft light that is less yellow might be more comfortable while providing enough light to do routine activities.


Since autoimmune diseases contribute to widespread inflammation, the eyes may be affected by the disease process. There are several parts of the eye that might be affected by inflammation. For example, when the tear ducts become inflamed, they cause reduced tear production and lead to chronic dry eye. Uveitis can cause many parts of the eye to become inflamed and eventually lead to eye damage. When the inflammation is mild and in the earlier stages, there may only be some changes in vision. Unfortunately, severe inflammation can lead to significant, irreversible vision loss. People with autoimmune diseases need to be concerned if they have red eyes, vision changes, and/or pain in their eyes.

Even with effective treatment of autoimmune diseases, there is still a risk of having eye problems. Routine exams by an ophthalmologist, such as at the eye center inc, and taking changes in your vision seriously can prevent eye problems from causing permanent vision loss.