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Eye Doctors Can Play a Key Role in Diagnosing Gut Disease

About 3.1 million people in the U.S. have IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.




Optometrists can play an important role in helping patients who have inflammatory bowel disease, the American Optometric Association reports.

Inflammatory bowel disease can cause symptoms in the eye, which ODs can detect during during comprehensive eye examinations, according to a newly released AOA Health Policy Institute brief.

“Given that comprehensive eye examinations can lead to earlier, definitive diagnosis of IBD, patient outcomes improve with earlier treatment,” AOA reports.

“The clinical manifestations of common inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, are not restricted to the gastrointestinal tract,” according to the Health Policy Institute brief. “IBDs have impact to other organs in a significant number of patients, including the eyes in 72.1 percent of patients with IBDs.”

The brief links IBD’s inflammation to a variety of ophthalmic conditions, including:

  • Episcleritis
  • Scleritis
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye)
  • Retinal edema
  • Optic neuritis (swelling of the optic nerve)
  • Extraocular muscle nerve palsies.

According to the brief, about 3.1 million people in the U.S. have IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.


“Evaluation of the eye should be a routine component of care in patients with IBD just as it is with similar chronic co-morbid systemic conditions like diabetes,” according to the paper.

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