People often associate Crohn’s disease with intestinal problems, but Crohn’s, which causes chronic inflammation leading to diarrhea and abdominal pain, can also cause inflammation in various parts of the eye. Eye problems affect around 10 percent of people with Crohn’s disease, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America states. Eye problems most often occur in people who also have arthritis caused by Crohn’s disease. While inflammation in the eye generally responds to treatment without causing vision loss, inflammation does require treatment and can cause temporary vision problems.
Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, dry eye causes annoying sensations of grittiness, itching and burning in the eye. In people with Crohn’s disease, vitamin A deficiency from chronic diarrhea and malabsorption may lead to dry eye. Vitamin A supplements and artificial tears help decrease the discomfort caused by dry eye.
Crohn’s disease can cause episcleritis, inflammation of the outer layer of the sclera, the white part of the eyeball. Symptoms of episcleritis include redness, pain and tenderness in the sclera. Steroid eye drops, which reduce inflammation and vasoconstrictors, which constrict the inflamed, dilated blood vessels help treat episcleritis. Episcleritis, often clears on its own, but can progress in some cases to scleritis , which can cause perforation of the eyeball and vision loss, says MedlinePlus.
Crohn’s disease can also cause a condition called iritis, an inflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye. Iritis causes redness, light sensitivity, blurred vision, tearing, pain and possibly floaters, strings or spots that appear in the line of vision, the Angeles Vision Clinic reports. Dilating drops prevent scarring of the iris and steroid medications reduce inflammation.
Keratopathy, another complication of Crohn’s disease, causes white spots to develop at the edge of the cornea, the clear dome-shaped covering over the front of the eyeball. The spots don’t cause vision loss or pain, and generally don’t require treatment, the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America states.
Rarely, the retina, the layer of light-sensitive cells that covers the back of the eye, becomes inflamed in people with Crohn’s disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Retinal detachment, where part of the retina detaches from the back wall of the eye, can cause permanent vision loss if not treated promptly.
The uvea, the middle part of the eye, can develop inflammation in individuals with Crohn’s disease. Uveitis leads to pain, blurred vision, redness and light sensitivity. Uveitis is treated with steroid eye drops to decrease inflammation and reduce the chance that glaucoma, an elevation of eye pressure that can damage the optic nerve, develops.