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5 Diseases That Can Affect Your Eyes

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A woman touching her painful stomach due to inflammation of her intestines. A digital illustration of swollen digestive tract.

Vision is an important part of our everyday lives, and our eye health helps keep our vision clear. But sometimes, even when we take care of those aspects of our health, such as with regularly scheduled eye exams, there are some diseases that can still affect our eyes. 

These diseases are not to be confused with eye diseases. They are other diseases of the body that could potentially affect your eyes. For example, 5 diseases that can affect your eyes include Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, thyroid disease, Lyme disease, and diabetes. 

Learning about the diseases that can affect your eyes can help you make adjustments to support your overall health and your eye health. 

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is a condition that mainly affects your bowel. This is an inflammatory disease that causes swelling of the tissues in your digestive tract and can cause abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and malnutrition. While many of the symptoms of this disease affect your digestive tract, it can affect other areas of your body as well. 

Crohn’s is an inflammatory disease that affects other organs of your body, such as your eyes. In fact, Crohn’s disease can cause several different types of inflammation in the eye:

  • Episcleritis: This is a common eye complication associated with Crohn’s. It involves inflammation that affects the white tissue of the eyes under the eyelids and can cause redness and sore eyes. Episcleritis often does not have any effect on your vision.
  • Scleritis: This condition affects the white areas of the eye. This is a severe condition which can cause pain and reduce your vision. Scleritis is more common in older patients.
  • Uveitis: With IBD, uveitis commonly affects the iris of the eye. Symptoms of this condition can include red, irritated eyes, sensitivity to light, headaches, and blurred vision.
  • Cataract and dry eyes: IBD can be associated with blurred vision or ‘clouding’ of the eye caused by some steroid medications. If this occurs, you may need to change the treatment and medication you use for IBD. 
A digital illustration of a human kidney.

Kidney Disease

Your kidneys filter your blood and extra water from your system to get rid of any access waste. If you have problems with your kidneys, your blood may not be filtered the way that it should be.

For those who have kidney disease, eye complications and problems can come on without any warning. It is important to make sure that you are taking care of your eyes and speaking to both your kidney doctor as well as your optometrist to ensure you can take care of problems that arise early on. 

Some of the symptoms that can affect your eyes are sore, red, or dry eyes. This can be eased by controlling the phosphate and calcium levels in your blood. While kidney complications are not the only cause of dry eyes, they can be triggered or made worse by changes in kidney function. 

Retinopathy can be caused by kidney disease as well. It often occurs as a result of high blood pressure in the body. This can damage the small blood vessels in the retina and must be treated right away because it can lead to vision loss or blindness. 

Thyroid Disease

Thyroid eye disease is an immune system disorder which causes inflammation in the tissue and muscles around your eyes. 

There are many symptoms that you may experience with this disease, with some being quite mild and others being more serious. This condition can affect the area of your head where your eyes sit, causing your eyes to bulge out. One potential symptom is swelling that can make it difficult to close your eyes. 

Other symptoms that you may experience with thyroid eye disease are:

  • Light sensitivity 
  • Redness in the whites of your eyes
  • Double vision 
  • Watery or dry eyes
  • Pain or pressure 
  • Eye irritation

Lyme Disease 

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is transferred to humans through bites of infected ticks. One of the potential initial symptoms of Lyme disease is a rash somewhere on the body that appears after being bitten. 

There are many Lyme disease symptoms that a person can experience, such as joint pain or headaches, but the exact symptoms can differ from person to person because there can be many diseases carried in one bite from an infected tick. 

When you have Lyme disease, your vision and your eyes can be affected during the early and later stages of the disease. Some of the symptoms you could experience include:

  • Visual fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision 
  • Headaches associated with visual activity 
  • Eye inflammation 
  • Eye floaters
  • Sensitivity to light. 


When you have diabetes, your body is prevented from making and using insulin, which can result in increased levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes can affect your eye health in several ways. Some of the conditions associated with diabetes include:

  • Nearsightedness and farsightedness 
  • Premature presbyopia 
  • Glaucoma
  • Paralysis of the nerves that control parts of the eye 
  • Cataracts
  • Retinopathy

There are also specific visual symptoms that you may experience when you have diabetes. These symptoms could include:

  • Blurred or fluctuating vision
  • Loss of visual field 
  • Occasional double vision
  • Flashes and floaters within the eyes

When you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk for complications and blindness. It is very important to schedule regular diabetic eye exams to ensure that your eye health is being monitored. 

How Do I Manage My Eye Health?  

Managing your eye health along with a disease can sometimes be difficult, but you can get help. During your regular eye exam, our optometrists at River Heights Eye Care can help answer any questions that you might have and provide guidance specific to your eye care needs. There are various levels of care needed depending on which condition you might be experiencing. 

Learn More

If you have questions about how your eye health can be affected by diseases, book your appointment with the optometrists at River Heights Eye Care. Your health is important, and we are here to help care for your eyes. 

Written by Anthony Iuliano

Dr. Iuliano graduated with an honours degree in Biological Science from the University of Calgary with plans to work in the healthcare industry. In 2008, he attended the University of Waterloo Optometry program and graduated with honours in 2012.
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