Autoimmune Diseases

Eye Health

By Dr S.S. Gill

Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES affecting the EYES.

What is an autoimmune disease? It is a condition where the body’s own immune system attacks various organs including the eyes resulting in inflammation, which may be sometimes misdiagnosed as an eye infection. Some of the common autoimmune diseases that may affect the eyes are Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Sjogren’s Syndrome (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or Dry Eye Syndrome), Graves’ Disease (Thyroid related eye disease) and Psoriasis. As a matter of fact, autoimmunity may affect any organ in the body.

A problem such as psoriasis for instance, although presenting as a skin condition does not just affect the skin but also the eyes, joints, blood vessels and heart. Of course, psoriasis being a skin condition may not only affect the skin around the eyes but also the eyes leading to impaired vision and even blindness.


Many autoimmune diseases that can cause eye problems. They are:

  • Uveitis: Inflammation of the uveal tissue (brown/pigmented part) in the eye
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca: Dry Eyes & Conjunctival (clear part of eye) inflammation
  • Scleritis: Inflammation of the white of the eye.
  • Glaucoma: High eye pressure resulting that can cause blindness if uncontrolled.


This is the inflammation of the brown or pigmented part of the eye. The eye becomes red, painful, sensitive to light (photophobia), with tearing and blurring vision to a lesser or greater extent. The uveitis will need to be treated correctly as it can lead to loss of vision due to scarring of the eye. The condition will need to be checked by an eye doctor as uveitis can only be diagnosed using special eye examination equipment.

DRY EYE SYNDROME (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Dryness affects a fair number of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The conjunctiva (the clear part of the eye covering the white part of the eye) becomes inflamed. The tear glands of the eyes become affected and do not produce enough tears. Hence the patient suffers from symptoms of dry eyes like grittiness, itchiness, burning sensation and reflex tearing.

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