Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, primarily targets the small intestine in genetically predisposed individuals.

While classic symptoms relate to malabsorption, with diarrhea and weight loss being most common, around 50% of celiac patients exhibit atypical or extra-intestinal manifestations.

Among these, ophthalmic symptoms are often overlooked despite their potential to serve as the first systemic indication of the disease.

This blog post aims to delve into how gluten, the triggering agent in celiac disease, could affect the eyes and the best ways to diagnose such complications.

Celiac Disease
Celiac Disease

Ophthalmic Manifestations of Celiac Disease

Celiac disease has two categories of ophthalmic manifestations: those tied to autoimmune disorders and those arising from malabsorption.

Malabsorption Manifestations

Celiac disease can negatively affect eye health through malabsorption, where the body struggles to take in essential nutrients like Vitamins A and D, and Calcium.

This deficiency can lead to several eye conditions including retinopathy (retina damage), cataracts (clouding of the lens), pseudotumor cerebri (increased skull pressure), and dry eye (insufficient tear production).

Autoimmune Manifestations

Alternatively, autoimmune reactions in celiac disease can trigger a range of eye conditions.

These include orbital myositis (eye muscle inflammation), uveitis (middle eye layer inflammation), thyroiditis with orbitopathy (eye issues due to thyroid inflammation), and brain occipital calcification (calcium deposits in the brain’s occipital lobe).

With this knowledge, individuals can manage their celiac disease more effectively, aiming for superior eye health.

Diletation of Blood Vessels of the eye from Uveitis
Diletation of Blood Vessels of the eye from Uveitis

Malabsorption-Related Eye Conditions

  1. Retinopathy: Characterized by yellowish to white punctate lesions in the peripheral retina, retinopathy is linked to reduced vitamin A levels. Vitamin A deficiency can lead to night blindness and is often the first sign of trouble in patients. Vitamin A reposition typically improves visual function within one to four months.
  2. Cataract: Associated with celiac disease, cataracts result from malabsorption leading to chronic diarrhea and severe vitamin D deficiency, which hampers calcium absorption. Hypocalcemia caused by this can contribute to cataract development.
  3. Pseudotumor cerebri: This condition, also known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension, may be linked to vitamin A deficiency and is characterized by increased intracranial pressure of unknown origin.
  4. Dry eye: Loss of goblet cells and metaplasia of the squamous cells due to vitamin A deficiency can result in dry eye condition.

Autoimmune Eye Conditions

  1. Orbital myositis: This condition involves inflammation of the eye muscles and has been associated with celiac disease.
  2. Uveitis: An inflammation of the uvea, uveitis can lead to vision loss and has been associated with celiac disease.
  3. Thyroiditis with orbitopathy: Celiac patients have a higher risk of developing Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The orbital manifestation of the thyroiditis and celiac disease is associated with lymphocytic infiltration leading to tissue remodeling and fibrosis.
  4. Brain occipital calcification: This neuro-ophthalmologic manifestation results in local inflammatory alterations and vasculitis caused by immunological mechanisms. Low vision is rare in celiac disease but has been correlated with cases of cortical calcification in the occipital region.


Diagnosing ophthalmic manifestations of celiac disease involves the identification of the underlying celiac disease itself.

Diagnosis is confirmed when a genetic predisposition (HLA DQ2/8) is present, coupled with a positive biopsy and presence of antibody serology. In case of ophthalmic symptoms, patients should be referred to an ophthalmologist for further investigation and treatment.

Navigating Eye Health with Celiac Disease

Living with celiac disease requires adopting a mindful approach towards your overall health, especially when it comes to safeguarding your eyesight. Here are some strategies to avoid the onset of vision problems that might stem from celiac disease:

  1. Keep up with Eye Appointments: Prioritize regular visits to your optometrist. They’re trained to detect potential issues early, and timely intervention could make all the difference in protecting your sight.
  2. Think About Supplementing Your Diet: If your doctor gives the green light, consider enhancing your nutrient intake with specific vitamin and mineral supplements. For some, their regular diet may not provide all the nutrients their body needs, so supplements might help bridge that gap. Remember, always discuss with your healthcare provider before introducing any new supplements to your regimen.
  3. Get Educated: Become your own health advocate. Dive into learning about every facet of celiac disease. The more familiar you are with your condition, the more effectively you can handle it. Successfully managing celiac disease could reduce the risk of nutritional shortages and potential eye-related complications.

Celiac Disease Management:

Embracing a gluten-free lifestyle forms the bedrock of managing celiac disease. This dietary commitment isn’t temporary; it’s lifelong. Make it your mission to identify and avoid gluten-containing foods to prevent additional harm to your intestines.

Your healthcare provider might also recommend certain medications to soothe inflammation in your gut. This treatment doesn’t replace a gluten-free diet but can provide extra help during your gut’s recovery process.


Ophthalmic manifestations in celiac disease, while rare, are vital to detect and treat. They should be investigated in patients with celiac disease, often serving as the first systemic signs of the disorder.

A multidisciplinary approach involving gastroenterologists, ophthalmologists, and nutritionists.

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Ruman Amjad

Hello, I am Dr. Ruman Amjad, an Ophthalmologist specializing in the field of eye care, particularly focused on helping individuals with swollen eyelids. I am thrilled to welcome you to Swollen-Eyelid.com, a comprehensive resource dedicated to providing accurate and reliable information on eyelid inflammation.


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