At first glance it may not seem like arthritis has anything to do with vision. Why would a joint condition affect our eyes? There are no joints in our eyes.
What we fail to consider is that arthritis is not a joint condition, but an inflammation condition. Our eyes are not immune to inflammation. When arthritis strikes, we need to be careful as to not let it affect our vision. Like arthritis in the joints, arthritis in the eyes can be debilitating if not treated properly.
Arthritis: What Is It?
Truthfully, arthritis, though a very common condition, is not well understood. Even more surprising is that arthritis doesn’t even refer to one specific joint condition. It’s actually the umbrella term used to describe joint pain and diseases. In reality, there are over 100 different types of arthritis!
But don’t worry, we won’t bore you with the specifics because it all boils down to the same thing.
Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that typically affects the joints. Thought it is often associated with the elderly, people of all ages can have arthritis. However, the condition will often affect women more than men.
Arthritis causes severe disabilities, especially in older people. It reduces a person’s mobility, making it hard to move around. When arthritis affects the hands and wrists, it can make simple things like cooking a very difficult challenge.
When arthritis is present, it can cause joints to swell. Often the swelling will be seen through the skin. This will give the joints a knobby look, almost like small marbles got stuck in your knuckles.
In the knees, it will look very swollen and puffy, and it can be extremely painful. You never realize how much work your knees do every day until they start hurting.
As we mentioned, there are over 100 different types of arthritis that all have different symptoms. Different types will also have different degrees of pain. To generalize is tough, but you’ll get the gist of it.
Obviously, one symptom that will likely be present in most types of arthritis is swollen joints. The swelling can vary from mild to severe, with severe being unable to move the joints.
The swelling caused by arthritis can be very painful. Doing something as simple as closing your fists would be impossible due to the pain and the stiffness of the joints.
Symptoms of arthritis are not always present. They may come and go or they may be chronic. Chronic arthritis is the most difficult to deal with because it will decrease your ability to move as it becomes more severe.
The type of arthritis most associated with affecting the eyes is rheumatoid arthritis. You may have heard of this type before since it is the most common type of arthritis.
The reason this type of arthritis affects the eyes is because rheumatoid arthritis affects the collagen in the joints, which cases them to swell. In the whites of the eye and the cornea, there is an enormous amount of collagen.
When rheumatoid arthritis is present in the joints, it can also affect the parts of the eye that have collagen in them. This type of arthritis will cause swelling of these parts of the eye, which can lead to various infections and conditions.
The most common effect of rheumatoid arthritis on the eyes is causing dry eyes. Dry eyes is a condition which reduces the amount of mucus and tears produced by the eyes. If our eyes aren’t properly lubricated it can cause blurred vision.
Not only that, but dry eyes can leave you vulnerable to infections. Without the tears to wash away potentially harmful bacteria, anything can happen. Your eyes need to be lubricated in order to protect themselves.
However, dry eyes can be treated. Coupled with your arthritis medication, try boosting your omega-3 intake. Omega-3s have been shown to naturally help your tear ducts produce the tear and mucus needed.
Omega-3s can be found in eggs, flaxseeds and omega-3 supplements. Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. Although they’re safe for the most part, sometimes they can interfere with whatever medication you may be taking.
Scleritis is the swelling of the sclera part of the eye. The sclera is the white of the eye. When it swells it can look red and puffy. It can cause severe pain if the swelling is not brought down and may even cause the eye to split open.
When the sclera is inflamed, it will cause a severe sensitivity to light. This can then lead to frequent and sometimes chronic headaches. It can also reduce your vision by distorting what your eye perceives.
Unfortunately, when your sclera becomes inflamed it means that your arthritis is out of control. The only way to reduce the swelling is to make sure that your arthritis is always kept under control. Talk to your doctor to figure out the best way to do this.
Uveitis is another form of swelling in the eye. This type of swelling occurs in the center layer of the eye called the uvea. It is located between the sclera and the retina.
When this layer is inflamed it can cause a lot of problems, including permanent vision loss. It can also cause light sensitivity, pain, redness and blurred vision.
Again, as with scleritis, uveitis can only be controlled if your arthritis is under control. Contact your doctor if you suddenly have sensitivity to light or pain in your eyes. The sooner these inflammations are under control, the better it will be for maintaining your vision.
Though arthritis may not be as well understood as other conditions, it is known for sure that it can cause inflammation in the eyes. The best way to deal with these complications is to make sure that you have your arthritis under control.
You will also want to see your eye doctor regularly. They’ll be able to spot the inflammation early with a comprehensive eye exam.
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