10 Health Conditions That May Affect Your Eyes

  • woman's eyes
    Focus on These Causes of Eye Symptoms
    Getting regular eye exams isn't just important for the health of your vision. Many chronic conditions can also cause eye symptoms, such as dry eyes, damaged blood vessels--even blindness. If you're living with any of these 10 conditions, talk to your doctors about how your eyes may be affected and any steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  • Blood glucose monitor
    1. Diabetes
    High and low blood sugar swings can cause temporary vision changes. But diabetes can cause more serious eye problems when it’s not controlled. High blood sugar levels over long periods of time damage the tiny blood vessels that supply your eyes. This can lead to diabetic retinopathy—a leading cause of blindness in American adults. People who have diabetes should also be aware they are at increased risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.

  • Man measuring blood pressure at home
    2. High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure can also cause changes to the retina. This is called hypertensive retinopathy. Like diabetes, high blood pressure can damage the delicate blood vessels that supply the eye. In fact, your eye doctor may be able to diagnose high blood pressure during a regular eye exam. If you have high blood pressure, controlling it is vital to your vision. The longer your blood pressure remains high, the greater the risk of permanent vision problems.
     

  • young woman rubbing eyes in office space
    3. Autoimmune Diseases
    There are various autoimmune diseases that can cause eye problems. In fact, eye complaints are often the first symptoms many people with autoimmune diseases experience. These symptoms can be bothersome, such as dry, red or itchy eyes. But they can also be quite serious, such as sensitivity to light, eye pain, vision changes, and even loss of vision. Treating the autoimmune disease will help control the eye problems that come along with it.
     

  • Mild rosacea
    4. Rosacea
    More than half of people with rosacea have eye involvement—or ocular rosacea, according to the National Rosacea Society. The symptoms are redness, dryness, itching, burning, tearing, and having a gritty feeling in the eye. Some people also have swollen eyelids and sensitivity to light. The condition usually responds well to treatment when doctors catch it early. But it can lead to vision impairment and even vision loss if it becomes severe. Effective medical therapies are available. Consider seeing an ophthalmologist if you have ocular rosacea.
     

  • shot, injection, needle
    5. Infectious Diseases
    Eye infections like pinkeye are relatively common. But other types of infections can also affect the eye and eyesight. For example, shingles can involve the eye. With ocular shingles, the virus causes blisters, swelling and redness around the eye and eyelid. Shingles can also cause severe inflammation inside the eye. Eye pain is also common. If you have shingles on your face, see an ophthalmologist. Ocular shingles can permanently damage the eyes and vision. Measles and Lyme disease are two other examples of infections that can affect the eyes.
     

  • Doctor pointing at model liver
    6. Liver Disease
    When you think about liver disease and the eyes, jaundice probably comes to mind. The yellowing of the eyes and skin are a well-known indication that something is wrong with the liver. But there are other eye problems with liver disease. Dry, itchy eyes and xanthelasma—small collections of fat on the eyelids—can occur with cirrhosis. And congenital liver disorders can affect just about any part of the eye, including the cornea and lens.
     

  • capsule-pills
    7. Nutritional Deficiencies
    Vitamin A deficiency is a well-known cause of vision loss and blindness. It often starts as night blindness or trouble seeing in the dark. It can also cause severe dry eyes and lead to ulcers on the cornea. Other vitamins and nutrients also play an important role in eye health. Not getting enough vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc can increase your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Ask your doctor about multivitamins to maintain eye health.
     

  • illustration of sickle cell anemia blood, with both normal and sickle-shaped cells
    8. Sickle Cell Disease
    Vision loss, even blindness, is a complication of sickle cell disease (SCD). SCD is a group of red blood cell disorders that is passed from parent to child. The abnormal red blood cells can block blood vessels in the eye and cause damage to the retina. People with SCD should see an eye doctor every year to check the health of their retinas. Laser treatment may be an option if the doctor finds damage.
     

10 Health Conditions That May Affect Your Eyes

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
  1. Diabetes and Eye Health. American Academy of Ophthalmology. http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/living/diabetes.cfm
  2. Diet and Nutrition. American Optometric Association. http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-for-your-vision/diet-and-nutrition?sso=y
  3. Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease. National Eye Institute. https://www.nei.nih.gov/health/diabetic/retinopathy
  4. Measles. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/
  5. Ocular Rosacea Can Threaten Sight. National Rosacea Society. http://rosacea.org/rr/2004/winter/article_2.php
  6. O'Neill DP. The eye and liver disorders. Eye (Lond). 1992;6 ( Pt 4):366-70.
  7. Patel SJ, Lundy DC. Ocular manifestations of autoimmune disease. Am Fam Physician. 2002 Sep 15;66(6):991-998.
  8. Primary Biliary Cirrhosis. Merck Manuals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/liver_and_gallbladder_disorders/fibrosis_and_cirrhosis_of_the_liver...
  9. Primary Biliary Cirrhosis (PBC). American Liver Foundation. http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/pbc/
  10. Rosacea: Signs and Symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/rosacea/signs-symptoms
  11. Shingles: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Outcome. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/dermatology-a-to-z/diseases-and-treatments/q---t/shingles/diagnosis-treatment
  12. Sickle Cell Disease (SCD): Complications and Treatments. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/treatments.html
  13. Symptom List. Lyme Research Alliance. https://globallymealliance.org/about-lyme/diagnosis/symptoms/
  14. Vision Loss and High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/WhyBloodPressureMatters/Vision-Loss-and-...
  15. What Is a Vitamin A Deficiency? American Academy of Ophthalmology. http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/vitamin-a-deficiency.cfm
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 20
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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