Rheumatoid arthritis primarily affects the joints and surrounding tissue. But, it is also important to monitor other body parts, including eye health.
The most common eye complication of RA is dryness. When rheumatoid arthritis affects the eyes, it’s important to see a doctor to ensure there are, or will not be, any vision-threatening problems.
RA and Sjogren’s—What Is Causing the Dry Eyes?
Sjogren’s Syndrome is a condition that is oftentimes comorbid with RA. Sjogren’s is also an autoimmune disease. It attacks the glands in the body that make tears and saliva, but can also impact other systems and organs.
To understand which condition is causing the dry eyes, going to a medical provider is the first step that should be taken. However, if the only symptom is dryness of the eyes, RA is probably the root of the problem.
Uveitis and Iritis
The uvea is the pigmented middle layer of the eyeball. It consists three segment—the iris, the ciliary body, and the choroid. The iris, specifically, is the thin circular structure that surrounds the pupil. It is made of connective tissue and muscle.
Uveitis is the inflammation of the middle layer of the eye. This illness can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It can also be caused autoimmune disorders such as RA. There usually are no serious complications if the uveitis is treated early.
Symptoms of uveitis include blurred vision; dark, floating spots in your vision; eye pain; redness; and sensitivity to light. Iritis is a form of uveitis. The symptoms are typically the same.
#RAWarriors and Eye Health
Cyclosporine ophthalmic emulsion is an immunosuppressive agent used to treat chronic dry eye typically caused by inflammation. The most well-known brand is Restasis.
Another option for severe eye redness, dryness, and pain are punctal plugs. A punctal plug, also known as tear duct plug or lacrimal plug, is a small medical device that is inserted into the tear duct of an eye. Its purpose is to block the duct in order to prevent the drainage of liquid from the eye.
The bottom line is anyone living with RA should have an ophthalmologist as part of their RA treatment team. Some RA medications can even trigger inflammation of the uvea or iris and cause uveitis. Over-the-counter eye drops can offer relief, but long-term prevention and relief is usually found in prescription eye drops.