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How Does Arthritis Affect the Eyes?

Overview

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

From infections to vision changes, inflammatory arthritis can pose risks to specific parts of the eye. Keep reading to learn how to keep arthritis under control to protect your eyes.

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Arthritis types

Types of arthritis

It’s important to learn how arthritis functions to understand its full effect on your 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. Autoimmune diseases cause your body to attack its own healthy tissues, such as your eye. Other forms of inflammatory arthritis that can cause eye issues include:

Dry eye

Keratitis sicca

Keratitis sicca, or dry eye, refers to any condition that decreases moisture in your eyes. It’s often associated with RA. The Arthritis Foundation reports that women with arthritis are nine times more likely to suffer from it than men.

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

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Cataracts

Cataracts

You may have cataracts if you experience:

  • cloudiness in your vision
  • difficulty seeing colors
  • poor night vision

The condition is more common with older age. But inflammatory forms of arthritis make cataracts a possibility at any age.

In fact, cataracts are commonly seen in people with:

  • RA
  • psoriatic arthritis
  • ankylosing spondylitis

Surgery in which the natural lenses of your eyes are replaced with artificial lenses is the best treatment for cataracts.

Pink eye

Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, refers to inflammation or infections of the lining of your eyelids and the whites of your eye. It’s a possible symptom of reactive arthritis. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, about half of all people with reactive arthritis develop pink eye. While treatable, conjunctivitis can return.

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Glaucoma

Glaucoma

Inflammatory forms of arthritis can lead to glaucoma, an eye condition that results in damage to your optic nerves. Arthritis can increase the pressure of the fluid in your 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.

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Scleritis

Scleritis

Scleritis affects the white part of your eye. The sclera is connective tissue that makes up the outer wall of your eye. Scleritis is the inflammation of this connective tissue. People with it experience pain and vision changes.

RA increases the risk for scleritis, so you can help decrease the chance of this eye problem by treating your arthritis.

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Vision loss

Possible vision loss

Vision loss is a possible side effect of certain types of arthritis. Uveitis is a condition often associated with psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. Its symptoms include:

  • redness
  • light sensitivity
  • blurred vision

If left untreated, uveitis can result in permanent vision loss.

Monitor symptoms

Monitor any symptoms

Diabetes, which seems to share a connection to arthritis, can also lead to eye problems. 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 eye problems. If you have both arthritis and diabetes, it’s even more important to follow your treatment plan and get regular eye exams.

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