Arthritis affects more than just your joints. Rheumatoid arthritis, in particular, is considered a disease of the entire body because of how widespread its effects are.

For those managing arthritis, it is important to pay attention to eye health. Not everyone makes the connection between eye problems and arthritis, which can slow down or complicate treatment.

Arthritis can have many effects on your eyes, some of which are treatable. It’s vital to stay on the lookout for signs of eye complications so they can be promptly addressed by an ophthalmologist. 

Dry eye

Rheumatoid arthritis is commonly linked with immune disorders like Sjogren’s Syndrome, which can cause dry eye. Dry eye can be treated with over the counter eye drops, although prescription eye drops are more effective.

For most people, dry eye is an inconvenience that is easily managed with eye drops and good hydration. But for severe dry eye, more drastic treatments may be necessary, such as punctal plugs. Untreated dry eye can lead to corneal scarring and eye infections.

Dry eye may also be exacerbated by dehydration or too much screen time. Be sure to drink plenty of water and consider investing in blue-light-blocking glasses to protect you from eye strain and discomfort.

Inflammation

Arthritis is primarily a condition of inflammation. Inflamed joints cause the joint pain arthritis is known for, but it isn’t just your joints that suffer from this. Inflammation can spread throughout your body and may even reach your eyes, causing multiple problems like scleritis, uveitis and even glaucoma.

Scleritis

Prolonged inflammation can thin the wall of the eye, causing a disease known as scleritis. Scleritis is more likely to affect those over the age of forty.

Scleritis can cause light sensitivity, red eyes, and even eye pain. These symptoms are manageable, but those with scleritis must be extra careful with their eyes. The thinned wall of the eye means that even minor eye injuries could cause the eyeball to rupture.

Uveitis

Inflammation can also cause problems with the uvea, which is the thin layer of tissue between the sclera and the retina. When the uvea becomes inflamed, it usually causes the same initial symptoms of scleritis, light sensitivity and pain, and these may be followed by blurry vision. Floating spots in your vision and severe eye redness are also symptoms of uveitis.

Glaucoma

Inflammation can also mess with the eyes drainage system, leading to a buildup that may cause glaucoma. With glaucoma, there is a danger of the pressure causing damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma requires prompt and aggressive treatment to stop the loss of vision. Unfortunately, glaucoma is often asymptomatic when it first begins, and many people do not notice.

The good news is that an eye doctor will be able to identify glaucoma early, so visiting your eye doctor once a year will give you more time to fight potential glaucoma.

Do my symptoms signal arthritis?

Many eye issues have similar initial symptoms. Light sensitivity, for example, could signal something serious like uveitis or scleritis, or it may simply mean you’ve spent too much time in the sun. (Learn more about sunburned eyes here.) Other symptoms like pain, redness or blurred vision could mean many things, from eye infections to a concussion.

Only your doctor will be able to tell you what is causing your symptoms. If you experience any change in vision or other eye symptoms, call your eye doctor and schedule an appointment. You can never be too careful when it comes to your vision.

Complications of arthritis medication

It’s not just arthritis itself that can mess with your eyes. Sometimes the medicine necessary to help manage arthritis can cause issues with vision and eye health.

Arthritis is often treated with steroids and other medications that can affect your eyes. Some arthritis medications may even cause retinopathy. Only an eye doctor will be able to properly examine your eyes and accurately assess any damage done by arthritis treatments.

It is important to balance the risks of each medication you are taking. Remember to mention any complications you notice to your doctor right away, including problems with your eyes. They may recommend a lower dosage or a different medication. Never stop taking a medication or alter your dosage without first consulting your doctor.

Protect your eyes

It is important to maintain a schedule of annual comprehensive eye exams. Damage to your eyes is often cumulative, meaning the sooner a problem is identified, the better chance you have of saving your eyesight.

Your eye doctor will also be able to keep your eyeglass prescription up to date, so you’re always getting the clearest vision possible. For great deals on high-quality glasses that match your prescription, visit 39DollarGlasses.com.