Arthritis is known as a disease that affects the joints. However, arthritis can also affect other parts of the body, including the heart, the lungs, and even the eyes.
Dry eyes are the most common eye problem for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Although eye dryness might seem relatively minor, eye lubrication prevents infection. If left untreated, eye dryness can not only increase the risk of infection, but can also lead to damage of the cornea, the lens cap of the eye that helps the eye focus.
Dry eyes can also be a symptom of Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that’s often associated with RA.
Glaucoma refers to a collection of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, causing vision loss. It is usually caused by a buildup of pressure inside the eye. Any inflammatory form of arthritis can cause inflammation of the valve that controls movement of the eye fluid (vitreous humor). When the vitreous humor is not properly controlled, the increased pressure in the eyeball damages the optic nerve resulting in vision loss.
Although in its early stages, glaucoma does not produce symptoms, as it progresses it can cause eye pain, blurred vision, blank spots in the field of vision, and rainbow-colored halos around lights.
Glaucoma can be treated in its early stages with eyedrops that reduce pressure in the eye. In more severe cases, surgery may be required.
Regular eye exams are important for early diagnosis of glaucoma, particularly in those with inflammatory arthritis.
Inflammation in the eye can cause cataracts, a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Cataracts cause blurred vision, poor night vision, and seeing halos around lights. Untreated, cataracts cause vision loss. Cataracts are treated with surgery, which replaces the cloudy lens with a clear artificial lens.
Scleritis refers to inflammation of the whites of the eyes, called the sclera. RA can cause the sclera to thin out, making the prone to severe damage with even minor trauma.
If eye redness does not go away with the use of over-the-counter eyedrops, or if a person experiences severe eye pain or sensitivity to light, they may have scleritis.
Scleritis may be controlled with corticosteroid eyedrops. However, in some cases it indicates that inflammation is out of control, in which case it cannot be treated locally. Keeping inflammation well-managed is critical to avoiding scleritis.
The uvea is the part of the eye that gives it its color. Its function, however, is not merely aesthetic: it is responsible for supplying nutrients to the eye, and absorbing outside light.
Uveitis, inflammation of the uvea, causes pain, redness, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. If uncontrolled, it can lead to vision loss.
At Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, specializes in helping people with a variety of conditions, including arthritis. We know the many complications of this complex disease, and are well-equipped to maintain the health of people with all types of arthritis.
Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.