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Adults with eczema should watch for eye problems

Eye problems can be a fact of life for anyone living with atopic dermatitis (AD), the most common type of eczema. AD can develop on your eyelids and around your eyes, causing itchy skin and red, swollen eyes.

If your eyes have felt this way for some time, you may pay little attention to eye problems. You should. Treatment can help you feel more comfortable, and possibly save your eyesight.

Early diagnosis

Found early and treated, most eye problems linked to atopic dermatitis can be successfully treated.

Woman getting eye exam for eczema

Treatment can relieve eye symptoms

A board-certified dermatologist can create a custom-made treatment plan that helps your eyes feel more comfortable. Your dermatologist can also refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) if you have signs of an eye disease. Some adults who have AD have a higher risk of developing certain eye diseases.

AD may increase your risk for some eye diseases

It seems that the more severe the AD, the higher your risk of developing certain eye diseases. At least, that’s the finding from a 15-year study run in Denmark.

During this study, researchers looked at the medical records of adults in Denmark. In doing so, they discovered that those with AD had a higher risk of developing an eye infection called conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye.

Pink eye (conjunctivitis): Signs that you may have pink eye include:

  • Pink (or red) color to your eye

  • Watery, itchy eyes

  • Eyes sensitive to light

  • Wet, sticky or dry, crusty eyes

In this study, adults with AD also had a higher risk of developing the following eye diseases.

Inflamed cornea (keratitis): This eye disease occurs when the eye becomes infected or inflamed. Warning signs include your eyes feeling:

  • Painful or uncomfortable

  • Sensitive to light

  • As if you have something in them

  • Gritty

  • Watery

When caught early and properly treated, keratitis can often be cured.

Cornea changes shape (keratoconus)

The cornea of the eye is normally round, as shown here.

Frequently rubbing your eyes can change the shape of your cornea. As the cornea starts to change shape, it begins to bulge. It becomes cone-shaped. This change in shape can cause the following warning signs:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light, especially when driving at night
  • Constantly changing prescription for eyeglasses or contacts
parts of the human eye

Signs of keratoconus

If you have any warning signs of keratoconus, ask your eye doctor to take a close look at the shape of your cornea.

woman getting exam of cornea

When found and treated early, you can minimize the effect this disease has on your eyesight. Unfortunately, many people who have this eye disease don’t get diagnosed early enough. That can cause loss of eyesight.

An eye for warning signs can save your eyesight

If you have AD, it’s important to play close attention to your eyes. When an eye problem lasts more than a few days, make an appointment to see your dermatologist or eye doctor.

You should also have eye exams as often as your eye doctor recommends. Ophthalmologists are the experts at diagnosing eye disease. Caught early, the eye diseases linked to AD are highly treatable.

Getty Images

Heiting G. “Eye problems and diseases.” AllAboutVision.com. Website last accessed January 31, 2018.

Leung DYM, Eichenfield LF, et al. “Atopic dermatitis.” In: Wolff K, et alFitzpatrick’s dermatology in general medicine(7th edition). McGraw Hill Medical, USA, 2008:152.

Thyssen JP, Toft PB, et al. “Incidence, prevalence, and risk of selected ocular disease in adults with atopic dermatitis.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017; 77:280-6.