Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a condition caused by an autoimmune deficiency that causes inflammation and ulcers to form in the intestines. Symptoms may include abdominal cramping and diarrhoea. Some patients who suffer from UC have had the disease spread from the GI tract to other body organs and systems, including the eyes.
According to Rajesh Shah, M.D., approximately 10 per cent of patients who suffer from UC will experience trouble with their eyes. Symptoms may show up in the eyes even when a patient is not in the middle of a UC flare-up. However, most patients who suffer UC will not develop extraintestinal complications. Scientists believe that complications arise when UC triggers an extreme response in the immune system that causes inflammation in other parts of the body.
Due to the symptomatic flare-ups of UC, including diarrhoea, the body may not be able to effectively absorb nutrients or water. The appearance of sunken eyes is one of the side effects of this condition.
Uveitis is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye wall, or uvea. Symptoms may include sensitivity to light, headaches, blurred vision and eye pain. If left untreated, uveitis can lead to blindness.
Episcleritis is an inflammation of the outer coating of the white of the eye. Symptoms may include redness and burning, but vision will not be impaired.
Your ophthalmologist should be aware if you suffer from UC so that he may be better equipped to spot complications. It is important to let both your physician and ophthalmologist know if you experience any eye problems which may be related to UC. Most physicians recommend yearly eye exams for UC patients. Should any of these symptoms develop, they may be treated with steroid eye drops or oral steroids.