Rheumatoid arthritis does not only affect the joints. Eye problems can also be caused by this autoimmune disease, including dry eyes, glaucoma, and cataracts.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can increase the risk of dry eyes, glaucoma and cataracts. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the joints causing inflammation and pain. Aside from affecting joints, rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the eyes as well.
Due to the influx of inflammation, RA can lead to serious eye disorders as well. Rheumatoid arthritis has been found to increase the risk of Sjogren’s syndrome, a condition that affects the production of tears. With rheumatoid arthritis eyes can become dry and a white haze can even form over them. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it’s important to get frequent eye exams to catch changes or issues early on.
How does arthritis affect the eyes?
Arthritis can affect the eyes in numerous ways including dry eyes, scleritis, iritis and uveitis, keratitis, glaucoma and cataracts.
Dry eyes: Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lacrimal glands – they are what keep your eyes moist and produce tears. It is common in those with RA to have dry eyes, which produce sensations like grittiness, burning, sticky mucus and redness. A Schirmer’s test can measure the amount of moisture in the eyes, and treatment includes moisture drops or ointments.
Scleritis: Inflammation of the sclera causes scleritis. The sclera is the white part of the eye and if it becomes inflamed, even the slighted trauma can cause the eyeball to split open. You may see redness of the eye, experience pain and become sensitive to light.
Iritis and uveitis: Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea, which is found between the retina and the sclera. Pain, redness, blurred vision and light sensitivity are all symptoms of uveitis. This condition is also known as iritis, depending on which part of the eye becomes inflamed.
Keratitis: This is a condition where the eyes are unable to maintain a healthy film of tears. Eyes may also be dry and blurred vision can occur. Without the protective layer of tears eyes lose their ability to expel particles, increasing the risk of damage.
Glaucoma: Damage to the optic nerve leads to glaucoma. Inflammation in the eye can increase pressure and make it difficult for nutrients to circulate. Eye pain, blurry spots and blank spots are symptoms of glaucoma. Eye drops are used to relieve pressure and surgery may be done to increase flow of nutrients.
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