When most people think of rheumatoid arthritis, they think about joint pain. But as an autoimmune disease, patients often experience issues with other parts of the body—even the eyes! When left untreated, the eye conditions below can lead to serious corneal damage and loss of vision.
Itching, redness, and a general “dry” feeling are the most common eye symptoms that rheumatoid arthritis patients experience. Dry eyes are annoying! They can also be extremely painful, and they can become infected to the point that the cornea, the outer shell of the eye that helps with focus, becomes damaged. Over-the-counter treatments like Clear Eyes and Visine aren’t a good option because they cause blood vessels to contract. Prescription drops are more effective, and an ophthalmologist can prescribe the right drug for each patient.
Redness and pain in the eye aren’t limited to dry eyes though; inflammation in the white part of the eye, called the sclera, can have the same effect. This condition is known as scleritis, and other symptoms include swelling, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light. Patients should schedule an urgent care visit with their eye doctor at first sign of any of these symptoms to prevent vision loss and eye damage. Treatment options include prescription eye drops, medication, topical salves, and tear duct plugs.
Uveitis and Iritis
The uvea sits between the sclera and the retina (which is positioned at the back of the eye). Uveitis is inflammation of the uvea, and symptoms include blurred vision, redness, eye pain, sensitivity, and floaters in the line of vision.
The iris is the colored part of the eye; it controls how much light enters the eye. Iritis is inflammation of the iris, and symptoms are similar to uveitis. Treatment for both conditions typically include medications such as Trexall, Humira, and corticosteroids, depending on the symptoms.
Medication Side Effects
A painful reality of modern medicine is that medications have side effects. Sometimes the rheumatoid arthritis medications themselves trigger eye problems. In some cases, the medication can be switched or reduced, but these changes should only be done under the supervision of a doctor.
It’s important for any rheumatoid arthritis patients experiencing vision issues to see an eye doctor for an eye exam to determine the extent of damage to the eye. Call St. Charles Vision at 504-866-6311 to book an appointment today.