By Dr S.S. Gill
Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS affecting the EYES.
Arthritis may be a disease affecting joints and bones but that is not where the story ends. In the earlier issue of Ipoh Echo, Dr Gill spoke about rheumatoid arthritis being a disease involving the immune system and how the body’s own immune system eventually could cause eye problems such as inflammation in the eye. In a nutshell, the arthritis is actually a dysfunction of the immune system causing the joint inflammation and simultaneously leading it to attacking the tissues in the eye. The eye problems may range from mild to serious.
SOME OF THE ASSOCIATED EYE PROBLEMS
Discussed in the previous issue of Ipoh Echo were:
- Uveitis: Inflammation of the brown pigmented part of the eye
- Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca: Dry Eyes & Conjunctival (clear part) inflammation.
In this issue, Dr Gill talks about:
- Scleritis: Inflammation of the white of the eye.
- Glaucoma: High eye pressure that can cause blindness if uncontrolled.
This is the inflammation of the white part of the eye. The white part becomes inflamed and the eye looks red. The patient experiences pain, blurred vision and becomes sensitive to light (photophobia).
This condition can be mistaken for conjunctivitis and a patient may often start using some antibiotic eye drops only to find that the problem does not become better and may have even become worse. The scleritis is identified based on the area of the sclera (white of the eye) affected.
The inflammation in the eye can be so prolonged and severe that it causes the drainage angles in the eye to become blocked. This does not allow the fluid in the eye (aqueous) to drain easily thereby causing the eye pressure to increase over time. High eye pressure causes blurring vision, halos around lights and glare. With prolonged eye pressure, it will eventually result in optic nerve damage. Visually, the patient starts losing vision from the periphery and this is often referred to as “tunnel vision”. The peripheral vision loss can be determined by a perimetry or visual field test.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUFFER FROM RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS?
Get your eyes checked annually. Be aware of eye problems that can occur because of your underlying arthritis. Watch out for them and seek professional help soon if they occur.