How Arthritis Can Affect Your Eyes

arthritis and eyes

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Many of our housebound patients that we provide eye tests for may suffer from other conditions.

One of the commonest conditions our patients suffer from is arthritis.  Arthritis can affect any gender, age group and race.

As with many of us we assume that arthritis as just inflammation of the joints.  Research shows that inflammation is not only attributed to your joints but can also affect your eyes.  The reason behind this is inflammation affects Collagen.  Collagen is the main ingredient of connective tissue which is also found in the eyes.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder that affects the joints, however it can affect your eyes namely the sclera (white area of the eye) and the cornea (lens cap) which are made up of collagen.

Here is our list of 6 eye conditions that are associated with different forms of arthritis:

1.  Keratitis Sicca (also known as Dry Eyes Syndrome)

Keratitis Sicca also known as dry eyes syndrome is when the eyes stop producing enough tears to keep your eyes moist.  Women are more likely to suffer from this condition than men.

This condition is associated with rheumatoid arthritis and sjogrens syndrome.

The symptoms of this condition include dryness, a feeling of something in your eyes and blurred vision.

Treatment for dry eyes may include medication for arthritis to reduce inflammation, topical ointments, artificial tears or eye drops to keep the eyes moist.

2.  Scleritis

Scleritis is inflammation of the sclera (the white part of the eye)

Inflammatory arthritis conditions can lead to sclera or cornea to become thin.

Symptoms of this condition can include redness of the eye which does not go away with the use of over the counter eye drops, people also experience pain, sensitivity to light and reduced vision.

Usually corticosteroid eye drops are used to control inflammation, however the problem may be too deep within the eye to control and this is an indication that inflammation is out of control and the patients arthritis treatment may need to be adjusted.

3.  Uveitis

Uveitis is the inflammation of the uvea, the vascular area of the eye.  The uvea is the layer in between the retina and the sclera.

Uveitis can cause pain, blurred vision, redness and sensitivity to light.

Keeping the arthritis inflammation under control can help to reduce risk.  The first line of treatment will be corticosteroid eye drops, if this doesn’t help you will be given oral corticosteroids or a corticosteroid injection in the eye.  If you have an infection a course of antibiotics may be provided.

4.  Cataracts

Cataracts arise when there is inflammation in the eyeball which causes the lens to start becoming cloudy.

Cataracts can cause cloudy or blurred vision, difficulty in seeing colours and poor night vision.

Cataracts are treated with surgery where the cloudy lens is replaced by an artificial lens.

5.  Glaucoma

Inflammatory forms of arthritis can lead to glaucoma.  Glaucoma is an eye condition that results in the damage of the optic nerve.  This is normally caused by high pressure in the eye due to inflammation of the valve that regulates this pressure.

In the early stages of glaucoma there are no symptoms.  In the later stages the patient may experience pain, blurred vision, vision that has blank spots and rainbow coloured halos around light.

Treatment of glaucoma may involve eye drops to reduce the pressure.  In severe cases surgery can be used to lower the pressure.

6.  Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis occurs when there is inflammation or infection of the lining of your eye lids and the white of your eyes.  It is a possible symptom of reactive arthritis.

According to the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin disease about half of people with reactive arthritis develop conjunctivitis.

Possible conjunctivitis symptoms include redness of the eye or inner lid, increased amount of tears, yellow discharge that crusts around the eye or itchy/burning sensation of the eye.

Treatment is usually with antibiotic eye drops.  A steroidal course may be prescribed to reduce inflammation.

If you feel any of the symptoms of the above speak to your GP.

If you are in need of a home eye test contact us today.

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