If you have psoriatic arthritis (PsA), you’re likely familiar with the joint inflammation and pain it can cause. But did you know that some people with PsA also develop inflammation of the eyes?
Inflammation is swelling that can develop in various parts of your body as a result of an immune response. It’s a normal and healthy response to injury or infection that should stop when your body enters the healing process.
But in inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis and PsA, the immune system attacks otherwise healthy parts of your body. This causes chronic inflammation to occur.
In some cases, you may develop inflammation of your eyes. This may cause uncomfortable symptoms. In severe cases, it may lead to vision loss.
Read on to learn about some of the eye symptoms and conditions that may affect people with PsA.
People with PsA may develop eye conditions that cause symptoms such as:
- red eyes
- itchy eyes
- dry eyes or feeling of grit or sand in the eyes
- difficulty focusing or blurred vision
- pain or sensitivity, especially in reaction to bright light
Sometimes, these symptoms are caused by inflammation linked to PsA. In other cases, eye symptoms might result from an eye condition or other cause unrelated to PsA.
If you develop new or large floaters and flashing lights in your field of vision, it may be a sign of a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Floaters are small specks, lines, or other shapes that move across the field of vision.
Typically, the surfaces of your eyes are spread with a thin layer of tears every time you blink. This tear film is made of watery, oily, and mucous layers.
If your eyes don’t make enough tears or the right kind of tears, it causes dry eyes. This can make blinking irritating to your eye.
Typical symptoms of dry eyes include:
- burning or stinging in the eyes
- scratchy or irritated feeling in the eyes
- feeling of sand in the eyes
- stringy mucus in the eyes
- blurry vision
- difficulty reading
In some cases, dry eye may develop without noticeable symptoms. This can occur in a condition known as Sjögren’s syndrome, which affects some people with PsA.
If you develop dry eyes, your doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on the severity and cause.
Treatment may include:
- warm compresses
- over-the-counter lubricating eye drops (“artificial tears”)
- prescription eye drops to decrease inflammation
- prescription oral medications to increase your tear production
- silicone or gel plugs to block your tear ducts and keep tears in your eyes for longer
Uveitis is a condition in which inflammation occurs in the uvea of the eye.
The uvea is the middle layer of your eye. It includes three parts:
- The iris. This is the colored part of your eye. It controls the amount of light that comes into your eye.
- The ciliary body. This part helps your eye to focus.
- The choroid. This part contains many blood vessels that deliver nutrients to your eye.
Uveitis can affect all or some parts of your uvea. For example, anterior uveitis is a type of uveitis that affects only the iris. It’s also known as iritis. It occurs when white blood cells collect in the anterior chamber of the eye.
People with PsA are more likely than average to develop uveitis.
Symptoms of uveitis include:
- eye pain
- eye redness
- blurry vision
- floaters in your field of vision
- sensitivity to light
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention quickly. If uveitis is diagnosed early, treatment is available. It typically includes oral medications or eye drops to reduce pain and inflammation.
If it’s not treated effectively, uveitis can cause complications such as glaucoma, cataracts, optic nerve damage, and permanent vision loss.
Conjunctivitis is inflammation that occurs in the conjunctiva of the eye. It’s sometimes known as pink eye, especially when it’s caused by an infection.
The conjunctiva is a thin layer of tissue that covers the whites of your eyes and the inside of your eyelids. When it gets inflamed, the edges of the whites of your eyes become red and irritated.
Symptoms of conjunctivitis include:
- pinkness or redness in the white of your eye
- itchy or burning feeling in your eye
- excess sticky discharge from your eye
- crusty matter stuck to your eyelashes after sleeping
Conjunctivitis can be caused by inflammation that’s linked to PsA. It may also result from other conditions, such as allergies or infections.
Treatment for conjunctivitis depends on the cause. If your doctor suspects you have conjunctivitis caused by a bacterial infection, they may prescribe antibiotic eye drops.
In other cases, they may recommend lubricating or steroid eye drops to reduce symptoms until the condition resolves on its own.
Ectropion occurs when the bottom eyelid turns outwards.
If you have skin psoriasis as well as PsA, scaly patches may develop on your face around your eyes and on your eyelids. This can potentially change the shape of your eyelids. In some cases, it can result in ectropion.
Your eyelid helps to lubricate and protect your eye. If your eyelid pulls away, it can cause significant irritation to your eye.
Symptoms of ectropion include:
- visible drooping of your lower eyelid
- eye dryness
- excessive tearing
- itchy or gritty feeling in your eye
- sensitivity to wind and bright light
As you get older, tissues and muscles around your eyes become less elastic and ectropion is more likely to develop.
To treat ectropion, your doctor may perform surgery to remove extra skin and reshape your eyelid back to normal.
If you develop symptoms of an eye condition, your recommended treatment will depend on the specific symptoms you have and their cause. Your doctor’s recommended treatment plan will aim to relieve your symptoms, treat the underlying cause of your symptoms, or both.
Many eye conditions are treated with eye drops. Depending on your symptoms and diagnosis, your doctor may recommend steroid, antibacterial, or lubricating eye drops.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend oral medication, surgery, or other treatments.
If you’re also experiencing a flare of PsA symptoms, your doctor may recommend treatments to reduce inflammation throughout your body. This may help ease inflammation in your joints and eyes.
If you notice a change in your vision or how your eyes are feeling, it’s a good idea to discuss those changes with your doctor or eye care professional.
They can help you identify the cause of your eye symptoms. It’s possible the symptom may be related to PsA or another medical condition.
Your doctor can also help you develop a treatment plan for any eye symptoms that you develop. Leaving an eye condition untreated may put you at risk of complications, including vision loss in severe cases.
Although PsA is mainly associated with pain and inflammation of the joints, inflammation can also occur in other parts of your body.
This can put you at increased risk of certain eye conditions, as well as other conditions that involve inflammation, such Sjögren’s syndrome.
If you develop symptoms of inflammation or other problems in your eyes, contact your doctor or eye care professional. They can help you develop a plan to relieve the symptoms and keep your eyes healthy.