The inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis doesn't just affect your joints. Your eyes can also become inflamed, and this puts those with rheumatoid arthritis at risk of developing Sjogren's syndrome and scleritis. These two eye conditions can impact your ability to carry out everyday tasks, such as reading and driving, but they can be treated. Here's an overview of both conditions:
When rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the glands that produce tears, known as the lacrimal glands, your eyes can dry out. Sjogren's syndrome can cause corneal irritation due to the dryness, which can lead to distorted vision. Your eyes may also feel itchy or you may experience discomfort that feels like your eye has been scratched. Additionally, when your eyes are too dry to clean themselves, you can develop bacterial infections.
Sjogren's syndrome can be diagnosed during a standard eye exam, and your optometrist will recommend a treatment based on the severity of your symptoms. Artificial tears and lubricant can be used to reduce discomfort if there's no infection present. If your eyes are infected, which tends to cause discharge, swelling and the formation of crusts along your eyelids, you'll need to apply a topical antibiotic to tackle the bacteria, and you can also use a steroid cream to bring the swelling down.
Patients with one autoimmune disease, in this case rheumatoid arthritis, are susceptible to developing other autoimmune illnesses. Scleritis is a serious autoimmune eye condition that can cause irreversible loss of vision if it's not treated. With this condition, the white part of your eye, called the sclera, becomes inflamed. Signs you may have scleritis include eye pain, sensitivity to natural or artificial light and a watery discharge.
An optometrist can diagnose this condition by examining your eyes with a slit lamp. The lamp magnifies the sclera, allowing the optometrist to determine the degree of inflammation present. Treatment for scleritis includes eye drops or steroids to get the inflammation under control and immunosuppressant medication to manage the condition long-term. The immunosuppressant medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis can also be used to treat scleritis, but the dosage will have to be reviewed.
Regular eye tests will allow eye problems to be detected early, and if you let your optometrist know you have rheumatoid arthritis, they will actively look for signs of eye problems associated with the condition. So, if you're overdue an eye exam or are experiencing any eye pain or visual disturbances, book a test as soon as possible.Share
20 May 2016
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