Inflammation is one of the worst things the body can go through.
Granted, the body’s inflammatory process is there to protect you and promote healing.
However, chronic inflammation is not something the body should have to go through. And yet, in many cases, people deal with inflammation on a regular basis, typically in the form of arthritis.
While the effects of arthritis on the body are well known, what might not be so well known is the effect it can have on the eyes.
That’s right, you can experience arthritis of the eye – or at least symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis within and around the eyes.
Arthritis of the Eye – Is It Really Possible?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is just one of the many autoimmune diseases that affect the eyes.
These diseases cause the body’s immune system to attack itself, making the body weaker and more susceptible to other illnesses.
The symptoms of autoimmune diseases like RA can wreck havoc on the body, including the eyes. This has led some people to say that they have arthritis in the eye.
While this isn’t necessarily the case, the symptoms – which we will discuss further below – can definitely make it feel like arthritis in the eyes.
Why does RA have an adverse effect on the eyes?
Again, the reason is inflammation. The sclera, the white part of the eye, and the membrane that covers the eye, the conjunctiva are all susceptible to inflammation. The inflammation that causes RA doesn’t care if a part of the body is a joint or not – it’s going to attack it.
Common Symptoms of Arthritis in the Eye
How do you know if your eyes have rheumatoid arthritis? If you experience any of the following symptoms, you can bet that your rheumatoid arthritis is impacting the health of your eyes.
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
- Retinal Vascular Occlusion
- Rheumatoid arthritis headache
For years, many people thought the pain associated with RA was limited to joint pain. These days, though, more people are talking to their doctor about what’s been termed “Rheumatoid arthritis headache.”
Studies have found that over 60% of people who have chronic migraines and/or headaches typically have conditions like RA that cause chronic pain throughout the body.
These headaches could be caused simply by the high inflammatory response of a body that’s struggling with arthritis. Or, it could be that the arthritis has started to impact the cervical spine, causing neck, shoulder, and head pain.
Other Autoimmune Diseases that Affect the Eyes
Rheumatoid arthritis isn’t the only autoimmune disease that has an effect on the eyes. If you notice your vision changing, pain in the eye, or excessive dryness, it may be caused by the following diseases.
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Behcet disease
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Reiter’s syndrome
- Thyroid diseases
- Type I Diabetes
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Crohn’s Disease.
Steps You Can Take to Reduce Painful Symptoms
In order to reduce the impact that your disease has on your eyes and to help build your immune system in general, make sure to do the following.
1. Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
While not all of your symptoms will go away if you eat an anti-inflammatory diet, such a diet can help reduce painful symptoms.
Here are some of the dos and don’ts of this type of diet.
- Eat Omega-3 rich foods regularly. Not only do they reduce inflammation, they promote tear production.
- Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables. The vitamins and minerals in these foods can lower inflammation exponentially.
- Stay away from processed foods. Sugar, white flour, and the chemicals used to process packaged foods increase the inflammatory response.
2. Try Prescription Eye Drops
Steroid eye drops can reduce inflammation. Not only will that promote overall eye health, it will make your eyes feel so much better.
3. Keep Your Doctor in the Loop
Both your general physician and eye doctor should know about any symptoms you experience when you have an autoimmune disease.
New or worsening symptoms could be a signal that your disease is progressing and that you need new treatment.
Or, it could mean that you have something else going on that should be addressed as soon as possible.
Consult with Your Doctor Right Away If You Experience Eye Pain
All too often, people try to deal with painful symptoms of disease in silence. They don’t want to appear to be unable to “handle it” and they don’t want to be a burden to their family.
The problem with not talking to a doctor about arthritis in the eyes or chronic pain and dryness in the eyes is that it could lead to further damage.
When you discuss all of your symptoms with your doctor, you have a chance of treating the condition in its early stages. You also have the opportunity to prevent more serious conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and blindness.
Your sight is precious. If you experience pain or excessive eye dryness – talk to your general physician or eye doctor right away.