Can rheumatoid arthritis affect the eyes?

Answers from April Chang-Miller, M.D.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that primarily affects the joints. However, rheumatoid arthritis occasionally affects other parts of the body — including the eyes.

The most common eye-related symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is dryness. Dry eyes are prone to infection, and if untreated, severe dry eyes can cause damage to the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface of the eye that helps your eye focus. Dry eyes can also be a symptom of Sjogren's syndrome — an autoimmune disorder that's often associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

More rarely, rheumatoid arthritis can cause inflammation in the white part (sclera) of your eyes, which can result in redness and pain.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis and experience eye pain, vision changes or other eye problems, consult an ophthalmologist for an evaluation. Early treatment can help prevent vision-threatening complications.

Aug. 02, 2016