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Dec 4, 2019

Arthritis and Your Eyes

Written By: Kierstan Boyd Reviewed By: J Kevin McKinney MD Nov. 13, 2019

If you have arthritis, you are already familiar with this chronic disease that causes swelling and pain in parts of the body. Most people think arthritis mainly affects the body’s joints—like hands, wrists, and feet. But did you know it can sometimes affect other parts of the body, including your eyes?

How Does Arthritis Affect the Eye?

A type of arthritis called rheumatoid arthritis (RA) damages the connective tissue covering the ends of joint bones. This connective tissue is made mostly of a substance called collagen. Collagen is also the primary substance of the eye’s sclera and cornea.

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered a disease of the entire body (systemic disease) because it can also affect the body’s heart and lung systems.

Dry Eyes and Arthritis

Many people who have arthritis also suffer from dry eye. Dry eye can also be related to Sjogren’s syndrome, a disorder of the immune system that is often linked with RA. Women are more likely than men to have dry eye with arthritis.

If left untreated, dry eye is not only uncomfortable but can lead to infections and corneal scarring. People with dry eye and arthritis may need to use an ointment, artificial tears, or eye drop medicine to help keep their eyes moist. Also, you might have tiny plugs (called punctal plugs) inserted in your tear ducts to help keep tears on the eye surface.

Other Arthritis-Related Eye Problems

The hallmark of arthritis—inflammation—can lead to vision problems when your eyes are affected.

Some people with arthritis may develop scleritis, especially adults between the ages of 40 and 70 years old. This is when inflammation thins the sclera, or eye wall. Scleritis symptoms can appear as continuously red eyes (despite using eye drops), deep eye pain and light sensitivity. Scleritis can be dangerous because an injury to the eye may cause the thinning eyeball to split open…..

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Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology Image: American Academy of Ophthalmology

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