How Does Arthritis Affect the Eyes?

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  • How Does Arthritis Affect the Eyes?

    How Does Arthritis Affect the Eyes?

    Joint pain and inflammation (swelling) are the main symptoms you may think of when it comes to arthritis. While these are the primary signs of osteoarthritis (OA), other forms of the joint disease can affect your body—including your eyes.

    From infections to vision changes, inflammatory arthritis can pose troublesome risks to specific parts of the eye. Learn how keeping your arthritis under control can protect your eyes.

  • Arthritis Means More Than Joint Discomfort

    Arthritis Means More Than Joint Discomfort

    It’s important to first understand how the disease functions to understand arthritis’ full effect on the body. OA, one of the most common forms of arthritis, causes joint pain primarily from long-term wear and tear.

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that can occur at any age. The body attacks its own healthy tissues, such as the eye, in autoimmune diseases. Other forms of inflammatory arthritis that can cause eye issues include:

    • reactive arthritis (stems from a body infection)
    • gout
    • psoriatic arthritis
    • ankylosing spondylitis (arthritis of the spine)
  • Dry Eye Syndrome

    Dry Eye Syndrome

    Keratitis sicca, better known as “dry eye syndrome,” refers to any condition that decreases moisture in the eyes. It's often associated with RA. The Arthritis Foundation reports that female patients are nine times more likely to suffer from it than men are.

    Dry eye syndrome can increase your risk for injury and infection because the tear glands are responsible for protecting the eyes. Sjogren’s syndrome is another autoimmune disease that depletes tear production.

  • Cataracts


    You may have cataracts if you experience cloudiness in your vision, difficulty seeing colors, or poor night vision. The condition is more common with older age, but inflammatory forms of arthritis make cataracts more likely to occur at any age.

    In fact, cataracts are commonly seen in patients with RA, psoriatic arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. Surgery in which the natural lenses of the eyes are replaced with artificial lenses is the best treatment for cataracts.

  • Conjunctivitis


    Conjunctivitis (“pink eye”) refers to inflammation of the lining of the eyelids and the whites of the eye. A type of arthritis stems from a reaction to this infection, in this case an infection of the conjunctiva. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, half of all reactive arthritis patients develop pink eye. While treatable, conjunctivitis often returns.

  • Glaucoma


    Inflammatory forms of arthritis can lead to glaucoma, a type of eye condition that results in damage to the optic nerves. Arthritis can increase the pressure of the fluid in the eye, leading to nerve damage.

    Early stages of glaucoma have no symptoms, so it’s important for your doctor to check for the disease periodically. Later stages can cause blurry vision and pain.

  • Scleritis


    Scleritis affects the white part of the eye. The sclera is the connective tissue that makes up the outer wall of the eye. Scleritis is the inflammation of this connective tissue. Patients with scleritis experience pain and vision changes. RA increases the risk for scleritis, so you can help decrease the chance of eye problems by treating your arthritis.

  • Possible Vision Loss

    Possible Vision Loss

    Perhaps the most frightening aspect of arthritis that affects your eyes is the possibility of vision loss. Uveitis, one of the more common conditions, can cause redness, light sensitivity, and blurred vision. This condition is primarily associated with psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Vision changes can be permanent when left untreated.

  • Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Condition

    Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Condition

    Diabetes also can contribute to eye problems. Arthritis won’t necessarily lead to diabetes, but diabetes can go hand-in-hand with certain joint conditions. In fact, diabetes alone can increase your risk for glaucoma and cataracts.

    It’s important not to ignore any potential complications of your arthritis. Monitor all symptoms, including potential arthritic eye problems. If you suffer from both arthritis and diabetes, it’s even more important to follow your treatment plan and get regular eye exams.