Rheumatoid arthritis doesn't just affect your joints; it can also cause complications in other parts of your body, like your eyes. Studies have indicated that nearly half of people with rheumatoid arthritis suffer from dry eye syndrome, a painful eye condition. Here are four things you need to know about dry eye.
How does rheumatoid arthritis affect your eyes?
Having rheumatoid arthritis puts you at risk of getting Sjogren's syndrome, another autoimmune disease. Sjogren's syndrome makes your immune system attack your moisture-producing glands, like your tear ducts, instead of fighting disease like it's supposed to. This damages your tear ducts and makes them less able to produce tears. This decrease in tear production is what's responsible for dry eye syndrome.
What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of dry eye syndrome is an uncomfortable dry feeling in your eyes. This dryness can manifest as a stinging or itchy feeling in your eyes, or redness in your eyes. You may feel like you have an eyelash or a grain of sand stuck in your eye, and this irritation can make your eyes watery. You may also experience vision changes like blurred vision or trouble driving at night. If you experience these symptoms, make sure to tell your optometrist.
Why is dry eye a concern?
Dry eye can cause a lot of serious eye problems, in addition to the obvious discomfort associated with the dryness. When the surface of your eye is too dry, you can develop serious eye infections; this happens because tears form a barrier to protect your eyes. Without enough tears, the surface of your eye can also become scratched or abraded. This damage can lead to further problems like ulcers, scarring, and in severe cases, loss of the eye. Fortunately, these problems can be avoided by getting prompt treatment.
How can your optometrist help?
Your optometrist can help you keep your eyes moist. They may recommend using over-the-counter artificial tear products, and if those aren't enough, you may be given a prescription for a stronger eye drop or gel. Eye ointments are also available; these are applied to your eyes before you go to bed to protect your eyes from getting dried out during the night.
If you have rheumatoid arthritis and your eyes are uncomfortably dry, talk to an optometrist like Terrezza O.D. & Associates, P.A.. Dry eye syndrome is a potentially serious condition, but with your optometrist's help, you can keep your eyes safe.