Arthritis can affect your eyes, leading to inflammation and impacting your vision. Arthritis can also damage your collagen, which is in the eye’s cornea and sclera.
Joint pain and inflammation might be the main symptoms you think of when it comes to inflammatory arthritis.
Other forms of arthritis, such as osteoarthritis (OA), can be more degenerative than inflammatory. Different types of arthritis, however, can affect your eyes.
From infections to vision changes, inflammatory arthritis can pose risks to specific parts of the eyes. Keep reading to learn how managing your arthritis helps to protect your eyes.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, affecting millions of people. It causes:
The symptoms come primarily from aging or long-term wear and tear. OA occurs most frequently in the hips, knees, and hands and results from cartilage within a joint breaking down.
OA also occurs more frequently in people with obesity, postmenopausal females, and athletes who sustain an injury or overuse a joint due to repetitive stress.
Because RA causes your body to attack its own healthy tissue, it may cause problems in your heart, lungs, and eyes. While the exact cause of RA is unknown, certain environmental and genetic risk factors have been identified, such as:
- older age
- being female, especially those who have never given birth
- a history of smoking
- exposure to environmental toxins
Other forms of inflammatory arthritis that can cause eye issues include:
Like joints, your eye’s sclera and cornea also contain collagen, which is what makes up connective tissue. Since arthritis affects collagen, it can lead to problems with your eyes.
Dry eye disease can increase your risk for injury and infection because your tear glands protect your eyes.
Another way you can get dry eye from arthritis is from Sjogren’s syndrome. This is an autoimmune condition that can co-occur with arthritis. It can deplete tear production, which can lead to dry eyes.
Learn more about secondary Sjogren’s and arthritis.
You may have cataracts if you experience the following:
The condition is
In fact, cataracts are commonly seen in people with:
- psoriatic arthritis
- ankylosing spondylitis
- juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA)
- quality of life
- self image
- sleep quality
Surgery in which the natural lenses of your eyes are replaced with artificial lenses is the best treatment for cataracts.
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye, refers to inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva lining of your eyelids. It’s a possible symptom of reactive arthritis.
According to the
Inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as RA,
Early stages of glaucoma have no symptoms, so your doctor needs to check for this disease periodically. Later stages can cause blurry vision and pain.
Scleritis and episcleritis
Episcleritis is inflammation of the episclera, the transparent layer of eye tissue that covers the sclera. This condition causes your eye to look red and irritated, often mistaken for conjunctivitis, but it does not produce discharge.
Scleritis and episcleritis are the
Even more severe is necrotizing scleritis, which can cause a hole in the globe of the eye and loss of the eyeball if not treated. Sometimes it is associated with a RA nodule in the sclera.
Because these conditions are associated with RA, you can help decrease your chances of getting these eye problems by managing your arthritis.
Patients on hydroxychloroquine need to be monitored for retinal side effects. Though it is not common, it is dose and duration dependent.
- light sensitivity
- blurred vision
If left untreated, uveitis can result in permanent vision loss.
Diabetes, which seems to share a connection with arthritis, can also lead to eye problems. In fact, diabetes alone can increase your risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.
In some cases, people taking hydroxychloroquine will need to be monitored for retinal side effects, depending on their dose and treatment duration.
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.
What are signs of arthritis in the eye?
Symptoms of arthritis in the eye can include:
- vision changes
These signs could indicate a more serious condition if you have a history of arthritis or diabetes. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns.
Learn more about the symptoms of arthritis.
How is arthritis in the eye diagnosed?
You will need to see an ophthalmologist, or an eye doctor, that can assess your eyes. They will also ask you for a detailed medical history.
If they are concerned, they may run further tests to determine if you have glaucoma, cataracts, or vision changes.
How is arthritis in the eye treated or managed?
Arthritis in the eye is managed mainly by keeping your arthritis managed to reduce inflammation in your body.
Lubricating eye drops may be helpful if you have dry eyes. You may also need punctal plugs, which are inserted into your tear ducts to keep your tears on the surface of the eye. Otherwise, treatment is specific to the condition you have with your eyes, such as infection or cataracts.
Learn more about punctal plugs.