5 Ways Scleroderma Can Affect Your Eyes


Because scleroderma is an autoimmune disease which affects connective tissue, symptoms and complications can appear in any part of the body, including the eyes. We’ve put together a list of some of the common eye complications experienced by people living with scleroderma, with help from the Arthritis Foundation and sclero.org.

MORE: Six complications of scleroderma that need treatment

Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome or keratitis sicca is where the eyes are unable to maintain a healthy film of tears, which is essential for keeping the eyes lubricated and protecting them from dust. The eyes become very dry and sore and vision may be affected, typically becoming blurred. Without the film of tears, the retinas can become damaged and the eyes are more prone to infection.

The condition can be caused by scleroderma itself or some of the medications used to treat the symptoms of the disease. Changing medications or using false tears (eye drops) can help relieve the problem.

Retinal Vascular Occlusion
Retinal vascular occlusion is where the small blood vessels surrounding the retina become blocked. These thin arteries can become backed up just like the larger blood vessels in the body. Vision problems occur and patients experience a sensation of a curtain coming down over the eye — which can come and go or happen suddenly.

Damage can be permanent but sometimes the veins can be treated with laser eye surgery to relieve the surrounding inflammation and allow better blood flow.

MORE: The effects of living with scleroderma

Autoimmune Uveitis and Iritis
Uveitis is an inflammation of the layer of the eye between the retina and white of the eye (sclera). The most common form of uveitis is iritis, also known as inflammation of the iris.

According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms include eye pain, redness, blurred vision, seeing dark floating spots, decreased vision and light sensitivity. Anti-inflammatory or immunosuppressive medications may be prescribed to treat the condition.

Glaucoma is the term for eye diseases where the optic nerve becomes damaged due to high pressure inside the eye. Often without any symptoms, glaucoma gradually decreases vision and may be brought on by high blood pressure or reduced blood flow to the optic nerve.

Regular eye exams are crucial to spot glaucoma early, as it can lead to blindness if left untreated. Eye drops are usually prescribed to increase the outflow or production of fluid in the eye, laser eye surgery is also an option according to the Mayo Clinic.

MORE: Five ways you can help raise awareness of scleroderma

Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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  1. kate menken-handford says:

    I had cataract with laser surgery and had the symphony lens implanted both eyes with in a week of each other in March of this year. My vision is worse, the glare, halos around lights, blueish curtain across my vision. Near and far. I complained bitterly as I could not even drive. Went back several times and was told to wait and see if the lenses and the brain would adjust. Did not happen. First he said he could remove and put the standard lens in or lasik treatment. Last visit he stated he did not want to touch my eyes and bluish curtain was due to my scleroderma and dry eyes and offered my progressive glasses, self tinting to cope with the glare. I feel that I am constantly trying to refocus. Has any one else had this experience and any solutions>

    • Carol lowe says:

      Yes same thing have had two surgeries on both eyes. Dry eyes they put tubes in waiting to get larger ones at the end of the month. Eyes hurt and burn badly most of the time. Haven’t got glasses yet my eyes keep getting worse. After the cataract surgery my eyes saw better than ever it was the greatest thing. Short lived I am back to how I was when I went in. My eyes are the worst thing I put up with. My skin is tightening on my face that doesn’t help. God Bless I just want something to get rid of the pain. Lost my license because of this.

  2. Ingrid says:

    Go to Geoffrey Painter. I had been blind in one eye most of my life from a pair of sissors poked into my eye aged 2. Developed a ‘Stress Cateract’ which was so thick and old, & due to the age when I lost my sight, every specialist in the practice said they doubted I would get any sight back ever, but I wanted at least, to be able to see light instead of blackness, they doubted this as well. The team of specialists all said they had no idea what was behind this thick mass, if they would be able to remove it, and there was a high risk that I could actually loose sight in the other eye as well which had happened to another very wealthy Sydney socialite patient 20 years ago, she sued them in Australian High Court- & lost. (For this I had to sign indemnity forms etc) The outcome was what Mr Painter and all the other eye surgeons & specialists in the practice described as a “miracle”, and Mr Painter also said that out of his thousands of surgeries he’d performed, “this was by far his best surgery of the year”, because I now for the first time since age of 2, CAN SEE, not only light, but 20/20 vision, perfect, my optition says it’s better than 20/20😃! This team does volunteer eye surgery all over the world. I was told that he was the best surgeon in Australia, they were right! And, I have Systemic Sclerosis, which could have caused complications, but didn’t thankfully. I have the usual SScl eye symptoms, such bad dry eyes that I am unable to cry! I’m very blessed! Good luck!!

  3. EyeSoothe says:

    Great article. Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease which affects connective tissue, it’s symptoms can appear in any part of the body, including the eyes. This article includes list of some of the more common eye conditions. Thanks for sharing.

  4. wendy says:

    I had right eye cataract operation about 2 months ago. There was no improvement, in fact my vision was worse, hazy, irritated eye. My dry eye that had hardly bothered me before was much worse. I was disappointed and went back a couple of times to see surgeon. However, many after about 5 weeks it slowly began to improve. The irritation has gone, the blurry vision is now fine. I see surgeon again in two days so will imagine the tests will show this. I have decreasingly required drops for dry eye.

    I wondered if it was not to do with fact that Scleroderma people often take longer to heal after surgery. Yes, I know this isn’t a wound as such, but what else makes sense?

    • wendy donald says:

      Further to this report. My vision deteriorated again. The eye surgeon somehow made it feel like my fault! NoTears drops seems to be not working in lubricating the Dry Eye, and is now replaced with another set of drops. I have three more lots of drops and ointments for irritation and inflammation and infections. Interesting the Dry Eye did not bother me before the Cataract surgery or following laser work. I did not suffer ay of these other things either. Although I researched prior to operation all I can say now is this – if you have Scleroderma think twice before having it. I am sitting here right now, my right eye hurts all day, I spend half my time putting drops and ointment in eye that is therefore hazy with drops.

  5. Dianne says:

    Hi, I have been suffering with my right eye for over a year. It constantly tears. I always have to keep a tissue at hand and it sometimes disturbs my vision. Even my makeup on this eye comes off…embarassing!!Any ideas what it’s called or what I can do about. Diagnosed with SSC 5 years ago.

    • Carol says:

      My cataract surgery was like a miracle. I saw better than I had for years. Within 2 months after the surgeries my vision is worse than ever. Going to see surgeon in a couple of weeks. I have nodules on the corneas and on the optic nerve. I also have Scleroderma which is going bonkers this last year. My face inside organs and you name it. I am also afraid of going blind. Dry eyes also nothing seems to help. Good luck to us.

    • Newly diagnosed with systemic scleroderma. I was wondering if the inability to no longer be able to wear contacts. It feels as though I have sand in my eyes. Also, in the corner of my eyes they get extremely sore. If they turn bright red and go for lack of better term they crack like someone myfinger/fingers do.

      • Maria Burman says:

        Dry eye and inability to wear contacts was the first thing that happened to me. Find treatment for dry eye and possible blepharitis.

  6. I had cataract and high power lens replacement. I was very near sighted. I am now having serious problems with double vision and am seeing my neurologist soon as a starting point. So far my glasses do correct this. Any one else with similar experience.

  7. Chris Brown says:

    I woke up with my right eye feeling like someone was using a jack hammer on it. I was diagnosed with
    Scleroderma in my eye. They put me on a steroid eye drop which is working to a point. My eye still feels like it has an ice pick sticking in it. I have lupus SLE and now Scleroderma. I have been on 2 different medications that are immunosuppressive. Does anyone else know how to deal with this?

  8. Georginia says:

    I hade a lung acute rejection went for the treatment than after my treatment my left eye I blurry come to find out there’s fluid behind my eye.. Now must I go so that they can inject my eye.. I pray and hope I glget my norm vision back.

  9. Leslie Lassi says:

    I have been diagnosed with scleroderma in August. Since March of 2018 my eyes have been so bad I couldn’t keep them open. I also have cataracts. I have changed my diet. Stopped smoking. I feel discomfort still. Constant eye drops and ointments. After reading all these comments I am kinda scared to get cataract surgery. I feel dammed if I do and dammed if I don’t 😪

  10. Terri says:

    I have Morphea. I was recently diagnosed with juxrafoveal telangetsia. I can deal with the morphea. But the retina disease is greatly affecting my ability to read, drive, and just regular vision and upsets me greatly.

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