Understanding Arthritis of the Eyes
When we think of arthritis, we almost always think of the joints. After all, that tends to be the most common and obvious manifestation of this disease. But did you know that certain types of rheumatoid arthritis can affect your eyes? Here's a list of eye problems you may experience with rheumatoid arthritis and how you can treat them:
- Dry eyes. This doesn't sound serious, but it can be a marker of an autoimmune condition called Sjogren's syndrome. This condition involves the destruction of the glands that produce tears and saliva, and it can damage other organs as well. Dry eyes can often be relieved by artificial tears.
- Uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the front part of the eye that causes pain and redness. Typically it occurs with reactive arthritis, a type of arthritis that arises in response to infection and often is short-lived, but it can occur with any type of rheumatoid arthritis. Patients with uveitis may find that their eyes are extremely sensitive to light. The condition is treated with steroids.
- Glaucoma. This disease occurs when inflammation in the eye prevents the eye's normally present fluid to drain correctly. This allows pressure in the eye to build up and can cause loss of vision and blindness. Glaucoma is treated with prescription eye drops or, in severe cases, surgery.
- Cataracts. Inflammation can lead to the normally clear lens of the eye clouding over. Steroids prescribed to treat arthritis also can cause cataracts if used long term. Surgery is usually recommended when cataracts begin to interfere with vision.
- Scleritis. When the white part of the eye becomes inflamed, it can cause constant, severe pain. The eye can even deepen to a violet color. Steroids may be needed to eradicate the inflammation.
If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis or an associated autoimmune condition, don't put off seeing your eye-care specialist. Regular monitoring of your vision will go a long way toward maintaining your sight and avoiding complications.
Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritistoday.com
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