Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that mostly affects the joints—but this disease can also affect your eyes. While it’s common to hear about arthritis affecting the joints, RA notoriously affects the entire body. Individuals living with RA may also develop conditions like dry eyes, inflammation leading to scleritis, Uveitis, retinal vascular occlusion, glaucoma, and cataracts.
How does this occur?
RA damages the connective tissue covering the ends of joint bones. This connective tissue is mostly made of collagen, which covers the entire human body—including the cornea and whites of the eyes. Arthritis directly attacks collagen, causing inflammation. In turn, the eyes start having problems.
How can the problem be alleviated?
Each condition associated with RA has its own set of symptoms. While the problems may not be entirely alleviated, there are certain steps that can be taken to further protect your vision. Here are a few suggestions based on the condition:
- Dry eyes and blurry vision: Medications can be used to create artificial tears and keep the eyes moist.
- Scleritis, or inflammation of the white part of the eye: Corticosteroid eye drops or similar alternatives can be prescribed by an eye doctor.
- Uveitis: corticosteroid eye drops may be prescribed initially, but if this does not work, an eye injection or oral prescription may be necessary.
- Retinal vascular occlusion: This condition is very serious and could result in a blocked artery. If this occurs, the damage may be permanent. Laser surgery may be recommended for this condition when a vein is backed up.
- Glaucoma: Surgery or eye drops may be prescribed to reduce pressure on the eyes.
- Cataracts: Surgery may be recommended for individuals with cataracts to correct the cloudy lens over their eye, replacing it with an artificial lens to improve eyesight.
What are the warning signs?
Although each condition and its recommended remedies are different, frequent visits to the eye doctor can assist in detecting and possibly alleviating these issues before they begin. If you begin to feel any of the below symptoms, it’s best to seek the opinion of an eye care specialist immediately.
- Eyes burn all the time
- Eyes feel gritty or itch on a frequent basis
- Eyes begin experiencing sensitivity to light
- Frequent red or teary eyes
- Blurred vision
Get the treatment you need.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent RA from causing further damage to the eyes. Florida Eye Specialists have led the way in eye care excellence for over 50 years with board-certified fellowship-trained physicians. Committed to providing the best and safest outcomes for their patients, they have the largest group of vision correction surgeons in the North Florida region.
For more information on eye care and surgery, make an appointment at one of the eight Florida Eye Specialists locations in Jacksonville, St. Augustine, or Palatka today!