Managing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be challenging, especially on the days it flares up, causing intense and aching joint pain. Sufferers should know that while RA primarily affects the joints, it can also have a serious impact on other parts of the body like the eyes. Learn more about why RA sufferers need to maintain scheduled eye exams.
How RA Can Affect Your Eyes
RA is an auto-immune disease that creates inflammatory responses in the body, like the pain you may feel in your joints. The eyes, particularly the sclera (the white part of your eye) and cornea (the lens part of your eye), are made of collagen, a protein building block in your body. Collagen in connective tissue, like in the sclera and cornea, is a primary target impacted by inflammatory responses brought about by RA. Some eye problems you may encounter because of RA include:
- Peripheral Ulcerative Keratitis (PUK): This is a serious eye condition, especially in people suffering with RA. PUK develops because of an autoimmune response occurring in the connective tissue in the eye, creating a painful ulcer in the cornea. RA patients that do not have early treatment of PUK can experience vision loss and some patients, around 40%, die due to heart attacks with a ten-year period after eye ulcers develop. For this reason, maintaining regular eye exams is extremely important.
- Dry Eye Syndrome (Sjogren's Syndrome): Dry eye syndrome is common in people suffering from RA with women being more likely to experience it than men. Managing your RA with prescribed medications can help reduce the occurrence of dry eye episodes when your tear ducts slow down or stop producing tears that are vital for your eyes to remain moist. Artificial tears are generally used to manage dry eye syndrome.
- Scleritis: When inflammation settles in the sclera, you can experience pain as the wall of the eye thins. In cases of scleritis that are left unchecked, the thinning wall can burst open from even the slightest trauma like bumping or rubbing your eye, causing a tear that ultimately leads to vision loss.
While some of the issues you might experience with your eyes associated with RA management include medication side effects, you should know that many of the problems stem from inflammatory responses directly caused by RA. By staying on a schedule with your ophthalmologist for regular eye exams, you have greater chances of catching eye problems related to RA before they grow out of control. Talk with a business, such as California Eye Specialists Medical Group Inc., to learn more about eye conditions.