Crohn’s Disease and Glaucoma

On the day when I received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, I had no idea I would ever mention that ailment and glaucoma in the same sentence.  However, my doctors are mentioning it more and more often as the years go by.

What’s the connection?

Glaucoma is one of the potential Crohn’s complications that occur outside the gut.  There are at least two ways in which Crohn’s patients can develop this eye condition.

One of the vision complications that occur most often is uveitis, which is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye wall.  Patients typically report pain, redness, light sensitivity and/or blurred vision.  If uveitis isn’t treated, it can progress to glaucoma.

Crohn’s patients can also develop glaucoma after taking corticosteroids for a prolonged period.  Extended use of these drugs, which are very successful at reducing inflammation in the gut, can also lead to cataracts, high blood pressure and bone thinning in addition to shorter-term side effects like emotional swings.

So what’s the big deal about glaucoma?

Glaucoma is actually an umbrella term for a group of diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness because of damage to the optic nerve.  While there is no cure, if doctors detect it early, they are often able to offer treatment that slows the progression of the disorder.

Many people associate this condition with increased eye pressure.  However, it’s possible to develop glaucoma while having normal pressure in both eyes.

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