Arthritis and the Eyes

Eye Health

By Dr S.S. Gill

Most people know that arthritis is a disease affecting joints and bones but did you know that it can affect the eyes too? This is because arthritis is an autoimmune disease. What this means is that the body’s own immune system can attack various organs including the eyes when a person has Rheumatoid Arthritis. This is something that many individuals may be oblivious about. Indeed rheumatoid arthritis can pose to be a troublesome problem to the eyes because the same inflammation that causes the joint problem can cause eye problems.

Some of the other common autoimmune diseases that can cause eye problems are:

  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Sjogren’s Syndrome (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or Dry Eye Syndrome)
  • Graves’ Disease (Thyroid related disease)
  • Psoriasis (Skin disease).


Rheumatoid Arthritis is just only one of the many autoimmune diseases that can cause eye problems. Almost 25% of individuals who suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis develop some form of eye problems. What are some of the eye conditions associated with Rheumatoid Arthritis? They are:

  • Uveitis: Inflammation of the uveal tissue (brown/pigmented part) in the eye
  • Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca: Dry Eyes & Conjunctival (clear part of eye) inflammation
  • Scleritis: Inflammation of the white of the eye.
  • Glaucoma: High eye pressure resulting that can cause blindness if uncontrolled.


This is the inflammation of the brown or pigmented part of the eye. The eye becomes red, painful, sensitive to light (photophobia), with tearing and blurring vision to a lesser or greater extent. The uveitis will need to be treated correctly as it can lead to loss of vision due to scarring of the eye. The condition will need to be checked by an eye doctor as uveitis can only be diagnosed using special eye examination equipment.

DRY EYE SYNDROME (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Dryness affects a fair number of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The conjunctiva (the clear part of the eye covering the white part of the eye) becomes inflamed. The eyes tear glands become affected and do not produce enough tears. Hence the patient suffers from symptoms of dry eyes like grittiness, itchiness, burning sensation and reflex tearing.

More on Rheumatoid Arthritis and eye complications in the next issue.

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