“The eye is like a microcosm of the entire body within a small little ball,” explained Sunir J. Garg, MD, retina physician and surgeon at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
He told Arthritis Foundation: “Any inflammatory condition that affects collagen – the main component of connective tissue – such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), can affect the sclera (the white of the eye) and the cornea (the lens cap), which are basically entirely collagen.”
Keratitis Sicca (also known as Dry Eye Syndrome) is one eye condition with connections to arthritis.
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- Blurry vision
- The feeling of having something in your eye
“When the corneal lens starts to dry out, it’s not an effective barrier,” said Dr Garg.
The condition may lead to infection and corneal scarring – which, Dr Garg says, is like having “a dirty windshield.”
“Dry eye syndrome is the most common eye condition of rheumatoid arthritis,” according to Careen Lowder, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic.
“Women are nine times more commonly affected than men.”
Rheumatoid arthritis affects more than 400,000 people in the UK.
“In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system targets affected joints, which leads to pain and swelling.
“The outer covering (synovium) of the joint is the first place affected.
“This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint’s shape. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break down.
If you think you have symptoms of RA, see a GP who can try to identify the underlying cause.
The NHS adds: “Diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis quickly is important, because early treatment can prevent it getting worse and reduce the risk of joint damage.”
The main treatments for RA include:
- medicine that is taken long term to relieve symptoms and slow the progress of the condition
- supportive treatments, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy, to help keep you mobile and manage any problems you have with daily activities
- surgery to correct any joint problems that develop