Can Arthritis Affect Your Eyes?

Arthritis is commonly understood as inflammation of the joints. However, what most people do not know is that it can also cause problems in other unexpected areas such as the eyes.

Rheumatoid arthritis, particularly, is believed to affect the eyes. People who experience arthritis-related eye problems are more common in women and tend to worsen as arthritis progresses.

Can Arthritis Affect Your Eyes?

Eye Conditions Linked With Arthritis

Keratitis sicca

Keratitis sicca, also known as dry eye syndrome, is a condition when there are insufficient tears produced to keep the eyes moist and more commonly affects women than men.

Causes include:

  • secondary Sjogren’s syndrome
  • rheumatoid arthritis

Symptoms:

  • dryness
  • a sensation of something is in the eye
  • blurry vision

Treatment:

  • arthritis medication
  • topical ointment
  • artificial tears or eye drops
  • using a humidifier in the room

Scleritis

Scleritis is the inflammation of the sclera or the white portion of the eye. This can make the sclera or the cornea too thin and cause the eye to rupture.

Causes include:

  • rheumatoid arthritis inflammation
  • autoimmune diseases such as granulomatosis and polychondritis
  • infections

Symptoms:

  • persistent redness
  • reduced vision
  • light sensitivity
  • severe pain

Treatment:

  • oral corticosteroids
  • intravenous medications to decrease inflammation

Uveitis

Uveitis is the inflammation of the uvea or the vascular part of the eye located between the sclera and the retina.

Causes include:

  • juvenile arthritis
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • Behcet’s disease
  • reactive arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis

Symptoms:

  • blurred vision
  • eye pain
  • redness
  • light sensitivity
  • sensitivity to light

Treatment:

  • corticosteroid eye drops or injections
  • antibiotics if infection occurs

Children who have psoriatic arthritis must be regularly screened for uveitis frequently because symptoms may not appear until it is too late and the eyesight is permanently damaged.

Cataracts

Cataract is a condition where the lens of the eye becomes opaque and causes diminished vision.

Causes include:

  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • oral or topical steroid use
  • psoriatic arthritis

Symptoms:

  • faded looking colors
  • cloudy or blurred vision
  • poor night vision

Treatment:

  • to surgically remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial one

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is damaged due to high eye pressure.

Causes include:

  • juvenile idiopathic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis
  • corticosteroid therapy side effect

Symptoms:

  • pain
  • seeing rainbow-colored halo around lights
  • blurred vision
  • blank spots in the visual field

Treatment:

  • eye drops
  • surgery to decrease eye pressure
  • avoiding or decreasing corticosteroid use

Can Arthritis Affect Your Eyes?

When to Visit Your Doctor

If you have arthritis and are experiencing any changes in your vision, consult your doctor as soon as possible. Early treatment and diagnosis prevent further eye damage and permanent loss of vision.

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