Gluten and Eye Problems

Gluten, the protein found in certain grains, might cause health problems, including celiac disease. This condition results from the body's inability to absorb gluten, and might damage the inner lining of the intestines. Celiac disease might result in digestive problems such as diarrhea and bloating. Consuming foods with gluten does not have a direct connection to eye problems, but in some cases, gluten might have an inadvertent connection to certain eye conditions.

Scones on a table below a window with a view. (Image: saiva/iStock/Getty Images)

Allergic Reaction

If you have an allergic reaction to gluten, you might experience eyelid swelling. Depending on the severity of your reaction, the swelling might appear as mild or extreme. To help reduce inflammation, your doctor might recommend that you take an antihistamine or other oral allergy medication. Holding a cool, damp cloth on your lids might help soothe discomfort associated with the swelling.

Other signs of a food allergy include swelling in other areas of your face, such as your lips, tongue and tissues in your mouth. You could have a rash, stomach upset, abdominal pain or lightheadedness. In severe allergic reactions, you might also experience difficulty breathing, a symptom that requires immediate medical care in case it's anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly.

Dry Eye

Dry eye occurs when the tear film on the eye does not adequately coat the surface. You might experience stinging, itching, redness and vision changes. Gluten does not directly cause dry-eye problems, but people who suffer from celiac disease might also have a condition known as Sjogren's syndrome. This condition of the immune system often affects the mucous membranes of the mouth and eyes, resulting in dryness.

Medications might help control the disorder, but you might need to use artificial tears, an over-the-counter lubricating drop, to help ease your symptoms.

Food Sources

You might need to avoid foods with gluten if you have an allergic reaction, celiac disease or a related condition. Grains containing the gluten protein include wheat, barley, rye, farina and durum. You should also avoid semolina, graham, matzo and spelt. Read ingredient lists on food labels because many foods and beverages might contain one or more of these gluten sources.

Considerations

Gluten does not typically cause eye symptoms, but talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of an eye condition. She will examine your eyes and evaluate your symptoms to help determine the cause of your eye problems. Inform your doctor if you have known medical conditions such as Sjogren's, as this will help determine any treatment you need.

If you have concerns that you have gluten intolerance, discuss this with your doctor as well. She can perform tests to detect this condition.

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