Most of us who have had RA for a while understand that Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) puts us at risk for eye damage. If we do take Plaquenil, we understand that the danger of eye damage is small. That is what we seem to need to know and that is all we are told about RA and our eyes. We are not being told that by having RA, we are at risk of having eye damage and should have our eyes checked on a regular basis.
We do know that the same inflammation that causes pain and swelling in the lining of our joints courses through our veins damaging the lining of blood vessels and our heart even when our cholesterol profile is perfect. We understand that and we try to keep ourselves heart healthy in every way that we can.
What no one mentions is that this same inflammation that affects our joint lining and affects our heart and our blood vessels also affects our eyes. This inflammation can cause permanent damage if we are not paying attention.
RA affects your sight.
Inflammation caused by RA invades the entire body including the eye. RA inflammation of the eye is common and may cause the following symptoms: Eye redness, eye pain, eye dryness, blurred vision, dry/gritty feeling in the eyes, sensitivity to light. RA inflammation may cause mild to aggressive diseases of the eye.
Dry eyes are common with people who have RA. Using artificial tears may be necessary to keep the eyes moist and avoid infection. Eye dryness may be associated with Sjögren’s syndrome in about 20% of the cases.
Scleritis and uveitis are arthritis related eye problems.
- Scleritis is an inflammation of the sclera, or eye wall, that causes a thinning of the eye wall usually affecting those between the ages of 40 and 70. Symptoms include redness, deep eye pain and light sensitivity. Even with mild eye trauma, scleritis may be dangerous as the thin eye wall could split open.
- Uveitis is when the uvea, the vascular layer of tissue between the retina and the eye wall becomes inflamed. Symptoms are eye pain, light sensitivity, and blurry vision.
Some people with RA may develop glaucoma. This happens when inflammation affects the part of the eye that helps drain the nutrient rich fluid that helps keep the eye inflated. If the eye fluid cannot drain properly eye pressure will increase and damage the optic nerve. Glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages. As it progresses, you may see colored halos around lights. Your vision may be blurry, and you may notice blank spots in your field of vision. Eye drop medication can help reduce the pressure. Glaucoma may also develop as a result of steroid treatment for RA.
Cataracts occurwhen the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This condition may be caused by RA steroid use. The lens can be surgically replaced. It is a common surgery.
Rheumatoid Arthritis causes systemic inflammation in the body. Your eyes will be affected by this inflammation. Regular checkups with your eye doctor will pick up eye changes caused by the inflammation of RA.
Excerpt from my upcoming book RA and You.