How arthritis can affect your eye sight

close up of woman's eye
Arthritis can affect other parts of our bodies, such as the eyes.

When we think of arthritis, we often focus on joint pain and swelling.

However, there are many different types of arthritis and each can affect different parts of our bodies, including our eyes.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, often brought on by a lifetime of wear and tear in our joints and bones. It causes painful inflammations and swelling that often needs to be controlled with medication and exercises.

Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is an auto-immune disease and can damage more than just our joints. Autoimmune diseases attack the healthy tissue in our bodies and rheumatoid arthritis often targets our eye tissue.

Both eyes are usually affected and symptoms worsen as the arthritis progresses.

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Eye conditions affected by arthritis

Dry eye syndrome

Keratitis Sicca, or dry eyes, can be caused by arthritis medication, which affects the natural film that keeps eyes moist. When the film dries out, eyes can be left feeling irritated or like there is something in them and lead to foggy vision.

The Arthritis Foundation says the most common solutions are eye drops or a change in your medication. They also suggest using a humidifier in your room at night to help keep the air moist.

Scleritis

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Scleritis is inflammation of the sclera, or white part of the eye. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause the wall of the eye, the sclera, to thin out, prompting the eyeball to split open. Ouch!

Symptoms include redness in the eye, sever pain, or sensitivity to light. While corticosteroid eye drops can sometimes be used to control the condition, sclera is usually an indication that inflammation is already too high. The best way to avoid the condition is to control arthritis inflammation on a daily basis.

Read more: Three ways you can alleviate arthritis pain in your hands

Retinal Vascular Occlusion

This damaging condition occurs when small blood vessels that feed the retina, or light sensing layer of the eye, become blocked or backed up, akin to what happens during a heart attack or stroke.

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It causes vision loss in two ways — either through the artery or vein. If an artery is blocked, damage is often irreparable. If a vein is backed up, laser surgery may help reduce swelling and restore vision.

Glaucoma

This common eye condition is often referred to as the sneaky thief of sight because it’s painless and regularly goes unnoticed until it’s too late.

It can affect one eye at a time and often isn’t picked up until it begins to affect your peripheral vision.

Symptoms include pain, blurry vision or rainbow-coloured rings around light sources. The Arthritis Foundation says the best way to prevent the condition if you have arthritis is to talk to your doctor about controlling your medication dosage.

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Regular eye exams can also help with early detection.

Read more: Eye health warning as blindness set to triple worldwide

Cataracts

Inflammation in the eyeball, which can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, can cause the lens to become cloudy and form a cataract. Cataracts cause blurry vision and colours often appear faded.

The most effective treatment is surgery, where the damaged lens is removed and replaced with an artificial version.

Do you have rheumatoid arthritis? How do you treat it? Did you know about the connection between eye health and arthritis?