3 Autoimmune Diseases That Can Affect Your Eyes

Health & Medical Blog

Dry eyes, double vision, and eye pain can have any number of underlying causes. In rare instances, eye problems might be the first sign of an autoimmune disease. There are several autoimmune diseases that can affect your eyes.

Graves Disease

Graves disease affects the thyroid. People typically have symptoms consistent with hyperthyroidism, like bulging eyes, weight loss, tremors, and anxiety. The specific issues that affect the eyes are referred to as thyroid eye disease (TED). When the eyes bulge, it may be difficult for the eyelids to completely cover the eye, causing dryness, irritation, and an increased risk of damage. Eye irritation, watering, and dryness are frequent symptoms associated with TED. In addition to controlling Graves disease by reducing thyroid hormone, treatments specific to the eyes may be necessary, such as eye drops. Some medications available are helpful in specifically addressing eye symptoms associated with TED.


Lupus is a condition where the immune system mostly attacks the organs. The disease can have profound effects on the eyes for several reasons. Damage to the vessels of the retina is the most common ocular manifestation of the disease. When adequate blood cannot reach the retina, it leads to vision loss. Another vision complication that can occur with lupus is damage to the optic nerve. This occurs when the nerve becomes inflamed. In addition to vision loss, there can be issues with eye movement and the pupil's response to light. One challenge associated with lupus is the medications used to control the disease can also have a risk of damaging the eyes. Hydroxychloroquine is used in lupus patients, but there may be retinal damage with long-term use. This requires annual vision checks to determine if any damage exists.


Diabetes is often thought about as an acquired condition, but there are autoimmune variations of the disease. Type 1 diabetes is considered autoimmune because insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed. People with type 1 diabetes typically have the problem diagnosed in childhood and require life-long insulin. Another variation of diabetes can occur later in life if the immune system begins to attack cells of the pancreas. This variation is referred to as type 1.5 diabetes, or latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA). When diabetes occurs as an adult, it is easy to misdiagnose LADA as type 2 diabetes. A clue that it is not type 2 diabetes is that type 1.5 does not respond to lifestyle changes and diabetes medications. Much like type 1 diabetes, regular insulin injections will be necessary. Diabetes increases your chances of developing any number of eye conditions, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy.

For more information about eye care, contact a local optometrist.


27 January 2021

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