Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory condition that primarily affects the joints of the body. However, inflammation can also have a negative effect on other parts of the body, including the eyes. The eye, as some ophthalmologists believe, is a microcosmos located in a small ball. Any inflammatory condition that involves collagen (the main component of connective tissue), such as rheumatoid arthritis, can affect the sclera (the white part of the eye) and the cornea, which are actually completely collagenous. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can occur at any age. Autoimmune diseases cause the body to attack its healthy tissues, such as the eyes. Other forms of inflammatory arthritis that can cause eye problems are:
  • Reactive arthritis, which is caused by infection;
  • Psoriatic arthritis;
  • Ankylosing spondylitis or arthritis of the spine and sacroiliac joints;
  • Sjogren’s syndrome characterized by dry eye and dry lips.
Depending on the type of arthritis, different eye conditions can occur. Keratitis Sicca (known as Dry Eye Syndrome) leads to insufficient eye care, which can lead to tingling or scratching, blurred vision, frequent infections, and an increased risk of corneal erosion. According to research conducted by the Arthritis Foundation, women are 9 times more likely to develop dry eye syndrome if they have arthritis than men with arthritis. Scleritis is an inflammation of the sclera (the white part of the eye) and reduces the thickness of the protein so that the slightest impact can cause the eyeball to rupture. Symptoms of this condition are: redness that you have had for a long time, severe pain, sensitivity to light and possibly blurred vision. Uveitis is an inflammation of the uvea (the vascular part of the eye) located between the retina and the sclera. If you notice redness, pain, blurred vision, sensitivity to light you should react immediately. If this condition is not controlled, it can lead to vision loss. Retinal vascular occlusion – the retina consists of small blood vessels that feed it with blood and oxygen. These blood vessels may become blocked and you may experience changes in vision. If an artery is blocked then you will probably have intermittent loss and normalization of vision. If a vein is blocked, then vision loss is gradual. Glaucoma is a group of ocular conditions that jointly damage the optic nerve. High blood pressure inside the eye is one of the causes of glaucoma, but arthritis therapy involving corticosteroids may also be a contraindication to glaucoma. Cataract is when your vision is blurred and you feel like you are looking through a curtain (net). It usually occurs in old age, but certain inflammatory arthritis can cause it at any age. Cataracts are more common in people with rheumatic, psoriatic, or ankylosing spondylitis. If you have been diagnosed with arthritis and have changes in vision, the best protection is to consult an ophthalmologist. Early treatment can prevent the development of serious vision complications.