Not everyone thinks of vision problems when they consider the symptoms of arthritis. But the disease doesn't only affect your muscles and joints. It can affect your eyes as well. Since arthritis can lead to vision problems, you should schedule regular eye exams and make your eye care professional aware that you have arthritis. It's also important for you to be able to recognize the signs of eye diseases for which arthritis puts you at risk so that you can receive prompt treatment to protect your vision.
Arthritis and Inflammation of the Eye
Inflammatory forms of arthritis, such as gout, psoriatic arthritis, arthritis of the spine (also known as ankylosing spondylitis), and reactive arthritis (caused by an infection somewhere else in the body), can cause vision changes. Rheumatoid arthritis, often referred to as RA, is an autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissues in your body, including eye tissues. Psoriatic arthritis, symptoms of which include skin rashes, joint pain and stiffness, swelling of the fingers and toes, and changes in vision, affects about 30 percent of individuals with psoriasis. Spinal or reactive arthritis can also cause eye complications, some of which lead to inflammation involving the iris near the front of the eye.
Dry Eye/Sjorgren's Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is the most common eye symptom associated with rheumatoid arthritis, affecting more women than men. The condition decreases moisture in the eyes, which increases the risk for infection. Some of the medications you take to relieve other symptoms of arthritis may cause dry eyes. Another autoimmune disease known as Sjorgren's syndrome also decreases tear production, which can result when inflammation damages the tear glands. The disease often develops when you have another autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Conjunctivitis (or pink eye) can occur in the reactive form of arthritis. Although the infection, which affects the sclera (whites of the eyes) and lining of the eyelids, can be treated, it often reoccurs. Some people with reactive arthritis develop inflammation of the inner eye (uveitis). Either condition can cause eye pain, redness, irritation, and blurred vision. Individuals with psoriatic arthritis or arthritis of the spine frequently develop uveitis–a condition that can lead to permanent vision problems without treatment.
Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk for scleritis–inflammation of the tissues of the sclera, which is the white, outer layer of the eye. The condition causes eye pain and changes in your vision. Autoimmune disorders, including the different forms of inflammatory arthritis, generally are the cause.
Inflammatory arthritis can increase your risk of developing cataracts. In addition to cloudy vision, poor night vision is a symptom. Eye doctors often see cataracts in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and spinal arthritis.
Inflammatory forms of arthritis can also increase intraocular pressure, which can lead to glaucoma. An increase in the pressure of the fluid in the eye can damage the optic nerves, causing blurry vision and pain. Like other eye problems related to arthritis, symptoms, including a rise in eye pressure, can be a side effect of corticosteroid medications you take to relieve arthritis pain and stiffness.
For professional eye care, contact an office such as Dixie Ophthalmic Specialists at Zion Eye Institute.