Rheumatoid arthritis: Can it affect the eyes?
Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily a joint disease. However, rheumatoid arthritis occasionally affects other parts of the body — including the eyes. Eye conditions associated with rheumatoid arthritis may include:
- Dry eyes. Generally, preservative-free artificial tears can ease the discomfort of dry eyes. It's important to note that dry eyes also can be a symptom of Sjogren's syndrome — an autoimmune disorder that's often associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
- Inflammation of the interior of the eye (uveitis). Uveitis may cause eye redness and pain, light sensitivity and blurred vision.
- Inflammation of the membrane covering the white part of the eye (episcleritis). Episcleritis may cause sudden eye discomfort or redness.
- Inflammation of the white part of the eye (scleritis). Scleritis is usually characterized by constant, severe eye pain and tenderness. Sometimes the white of the eye takes on the appearance of a deep violet color — deeper than the eye redness typically seen with episcleritis.
- Glaucoma. Inflammation within the eye can affect the eye's drainage system, ultimately leading to glaucoma — a condition that can result in blindness. Depending on the type of glaucoma, signs and symptoms may include gradual vision loss, eye pain or blurred vision.
- Cataracts. Several factors may lead to clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye (cataracts), including inflammation within the eye and long-term use of corticosteroid medications often prescribed to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Signs and symptoms may include cloudy, blurred or dim vision.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis and experience eye pain, vision changes or other eye problems, consult an ophthalmologist for an evaluation. Also consult your rheumatologist. Early treatment can help prevent vision-threatening complications.
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