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How Can Arthritis Affect The Eyes?

A person with arthritis has complete knowledge of what this inflammatory disorder can do. Arthritis causes pain and swelling in the joints to an extent that even doing daily activities becomes a challenge. Generally, arthritis affects the joints of the hands and feet. However, there are times when the eyes can also get affected with arthritis. It has been estimated that approximately 1 in every 5 people above the age of 18 have some form of arthritis or the other. Arthritis has no racial or gender bias and can affect anyone at any age and interfere with their quality of life significantly.[1,2,3]

One form of arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis is known to affect the eyes but it is generally overlooked and underdiagnosed due to other manifestations that are seen with this condition. Ocular manifestations are seen mostly in people who have longstanding rheumatoid arthritis. It usually affects the anterior chambers of the eyes causing medical conditions like keratoconjunctivitis sicca, scleritis, anterior uveitis, and ulcerative keratitis.[1,2,3]

Rheumatoid arthritis damages the collagen which is the primary component of the cornea and sclera. Generally, both the eyes get affected by rheumatoid arthritis. The ocular manifestations of arthritis are mostly seen in females and tend to get worse with the progression of the disease.[1,2,3] The article below highlights how arthritis affects the eyes and what the conditions that are caused by it.

How Can Arthritis Affect The Eyes?

Some of the medical conditions caused due to arthritis include:

Keratitis Sicca: Also known as dry eye syndrome, keratitis sicca occurs when the eyes stop producing adequate tears to keep the eyes lubricated and moist. It is seen more in females than males. Rheumatoid arthritis is the form of arthritis that causes this condition.[3] Aside from dry eyes, other symptoms associated with keratitis sicca include foreign body sensation and problems seeing objects. The best way to treat it is to manage the condition causing it that is rheumatoid arthritis with medications. Topical ointment to be used at night is also quite beneficial in treating keratitis sicca. Some people find artificial tears to manage the symptoms of keratitis sicca.[3]

Scleritis: This condition occurs when there is inflammation of the sclera or the white portion of the eyes. It causes the sclera and the cornea to become too thin causing rupture of the eye. Scleritis is a clear indicator that arthritis of that person is getting worse and more aggressive treatment need to be administered. The primary cause of scleritis is rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally certain other autoimmune disorders and infections can also cause it.[3] Primary symptoms of scleritis include redness in the eyes, photophobia, eye pain, and decreased vision. The best way to treat it is to manage the arthritis. Also, use of oral corticosteroids and antiinflammatories are also beneficial in treating scleritis.[3]

Uveitis: This condition occurs when there is inflammation of the uvea which is the area between retina and sclera. The primary cause of this condition is juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and reactive arthritis. The primary symptoms include pain, redness, blurry vision, photophobia, increased likelihood of permanent vision loss in children. Primary treatment for this condition includes corticosteroid eyedrops, oral corticosteroid, and antibiotics. It is recommended that children with psoriatic arthritis should be closely monitored for uveitis to prevent complications.[3]

Cataracts: This is yet another condition caused by arthritis. Cataracts occur due to inflammation of the eyeballs which results in clouding of the lens. It is mainly caused by rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. The main symptoms of cataracts include blurred vision, difficulty seeing at night, and difficulty with colors. Cataract removal is the only treatment for this condition. The procedure involves removal of the damaged lens and replacing it with an artificial one.[3]

Glaucoma: This condition is caused when the optic nerve gets damaged due to excessive pressure in the eyes. The primary causes of glaucoma include juvenile idiopathic arthritis and other forms of inflammatory arthritis. Pain and blurred vision are the primary symptoms of this condition. Eyedrops and surgical procedure to decrease pressure on the eyes is the best way to treat glaucoma.[3]

Conjunctivitis: This is quite a common infection of the eye but it can also be caused due to arthritis. Conjunctivitis occurs as a result of inflammation of the lining of the eyelids. Reactive arthritis is believed to be the primary cause of conjunctivitis. At times, certain infections may also cause this condition.[3]

Primary symptoms of conjunctivitis include eyes becoming red, increased tear production, yellowish discharge from the eyes, burning and itching sensation around the eyes. Conjunctivitis is mainly treated with antibiotics and steroids to calm down the inflammation.[3]

It is recommended for a person with arthritis to see an ophthalmologist if he or she experiences changes in vision or if they feel that their eyes are getting affected as a result of arthritis.[3]

Closely monitoring and following the directions of the physician while taking medications is advised to keep the symptoms of arthritis in control and prevent any complications due to which the eyes may get affected. It is vital to get an early diagnosis so that treatment can be started to prevent any problems with vision as a result of arthritis.[3]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 19, 2022

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