eye problems with RA.

Hi all

Not been on here for a while, as have been feeling quite good. However, i keep having problems with my eyes. This has only happened since i was diagnosed with RA just on 4 years ago. sometimes i can go 2 - 3 months without any eye problems and then all of a sudden bang! I wake up with swollen, bloodshot sticky and weeping eyes. its almost as if there is a thick film across my eyeball. My eyelid swells on top and bottom so i look like the elephant man at times. i have been to the GP at least 4 times and spoke to my Rheumy about it but cant get a diagnosis. They just give me antibiotic drops or cream which does help but i want to know what it is and no one seems to be able to help. It can take a while before i get it under control so its a nightmare of a morning trying to bathe them and getting the swelling to go down.

Anyway i keep thinking it is Sjorgrens but can't get diagnosis. does anyone else suffer this with RA or is it my imagination and just an allergy..

Could do with some advice so i don't think i am a hypochondriac.....

20 Replies

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  • Hello. Sorry you have this horrid sounding conjunctival issue to deal with. Of course you are not a hypochondriac!

    In the decades before my RA started I used to have a very similar issue with my eyes - rhinitis and conjunctivitis would both dog me for months on end. My new rheumy was asking me about this the other day and I said that although my eyes are always dry to a greater or lesser extend - I don't get infections anymore. I assume he asked this for a good reason. He has a special interest in Sjogrens, Lupus, Scleroderma and Vasculitis so I guess he's more far reaching than my previous rheum.

    He did a Schirmer test on me but it was okay. Then my optician last week said he was sceptical of the Schirmer test because anyone's eyes would produce tears no matter how dry - if bits of sharp blotting paper were inserted. He uses a tear break up blink test instead and said my eyes are still very dry. But I don't get the infections you describe anymore I'm thankful to say.

    I assume that your rheumy has looked into and ruled out the possibility of Uveitis - which is an autoimmune disease of the eyes that can go hand in hand with RA for some people?

  • Hi Twitchy

    No, he didn't i did mention my problem to him but he just said he didn't know anything about eyes!!! Weird i know so i gave up to be honest, there is only so many times you can visit the GP or mention it because you get the same answer all the time.. Put this cream of drops in.... so i do..

    Thanks for the advice though..

  • If I were you I'd go to an optomotrist and ask them what they think. Or if you can face it push for a referral to an opthamologist even better. If your rheumy and GP say they don't know about eyes then they should jolly well be referring you to someone who does!

    I've been researching this a bit because my husband has very pink eyes all the time and has been complaining about not seeing things as well and bright lights making his head ache. At my insistence he did go and see our GP about this about a year ago and GP told him about uveitis but gave him antibiotic drops to see if it was an infection - told him to come back otherwise. He just heard the word autoimmune and RA and just switched off and now won't go to see the GP. I told our optician and he will hopefully get his eyes tested sometime next week. There's no pus - they just look as though he's been swimming underwater for ages. His hearing is going too - or is this just selective I wonder!?

    Push to get this sorted out because it's obviously quite distressing having gooey red eyes whatever the cause. Another thought ive had about hubby is Rosacea. Does this problem also affect your skin? Tx

  • I guess I must be odd them - I had what was described as a "bone dry" schirmers test - even with the irritation of the blotting paper strip. It was done by a rheumatologist and not an optician though.

  • No not odd - just that you obviously had more severe Sicca when tested whereas mine varies in intensity - for the past few months I've actually had rhinitis instead.

    Now back to needing drops a lot only two weeks after Rheumy appt. But the optician last week told me that my right eye (less tears than left on the blotting paper) was making slapping noises which showed that this eye is extra "frothy" and I should treat it as blepharitis and clean each morning with baby shampoo if I can find the time. I never do though! He said it's a case of using drops all the time otherwise damage would occur to the surface of my eyes and it would be too late.

  • It sounds like blepharitis to me and try washing/wiping your eye lids with warm water and bicarbonate or a little baby shampoo two or three times a day until clear and then every night to keep it at bay.

    All the best

    Ali

  • If you haven't had any joy with either GP or rheumatologist, then the next time it happened, I think I'd be inclined to bypass both of them and go straight to an emergency eye clinic. Just make sure you tell them straight off that you have autoimmune disorders, and they will take it a lot more seriously. I think you really should be seen by an opthalmologist (specialist eye doctor, not optician) if you are getting this repeatedly, if only to work out a strategy with them for dealing with it in future.

  • I can remember having very similar problems a few years ago and a bad attack when staying with my daughter. She took me to her local emergency eye clinic where a very superior young man told me that it was quite obviously "blepharitis secondary to rosacea". It was treated with antibiotics locally and by mouth. Since then I wash my eyelids with baby shampoo and use eye drops for the dry eyes and have not had such a bad attack since.

  • I to have eye problems, rheumy referred me to ophthalmology and they recommended eye drops and confirmed blepharitis.Hope you get sorted soon because its a miserable problem!

  • I have this problem all the time but must admit I never thought RA. My optician says

    that I have blocked tear ducts and misshapen eyelids which goes by the common name of dryeye which has to be an oxymoron. He also told me that getting teardrops unblocked is not worth the discomfort as they quickly become blocked again. I must admit the condition has come on since I was diagnosed but know people that have it without RA. Sorry if this isn't very helpful.

  • I went to my opticians because I thought my eyesight was getting worse, after checking my eyes she told me that they are very dry and need to use eye drops every couple of hours during the day, the disposable ones. I said that my eyes are streaming how can they be dry? Because they are making more tears to try and lubricate the eyes, but as there is no oils left in my tears it is not working. My eyesight was fine after the drops and she told me to let my rhumy know, unfortunately another locum who said probably sjorgrens and gave me a leaflet, and that was all.

  • I do

    Was diagnosed with bilateral uveitis caused by RA.

    They are bad at the moment. At eye clinic Thurs.

  • Next time your eyes swell like this consider going to your local eye hospital/casualty.

    Medical team there are specialists in this area and you may get a specific answer to the cause. I have recently had Keratitis (inflammation of the cornea) in both eyes and found my eye casualty very helpful and was seen reasonable quick - 1-2 hours.

    Plus in my area Coventry we have a pilot scheme running where certain opticians are giving eye health checks. Like a triage service avoiding visits to the GP. I was referred to the hospital via a local optician after an eye health check revealed the above symptoms.

    Hope this helps and remember having dry eyes can be part of rheumatoid arthritis.

  • I have been under the care of ophthalmologist in the corneal clinic for about 8 years. I was originally referred urgently as a drop-in case by my optician when she couldn't get a reading on a standard eyesight test. At that point I found had very dry eyes, corneal erosions and blephartis. The blephartis comes and goes and although I have had to have steroid & antibiotic eye drops for bad times I can generally manage that.

    I see the consultant 2 or 3 times a year depending on how I am. As the years went on the consultant said inflammation associated with RA has now damaged the glands for tears & oils and my nasal passages. I have terrible dry eyes with no tears and no oil and it has got so much worse this year (who knows why?!). I also sometimes still have blephartis if my eyes react badly to tiredness/cold air/ wind/ warm air - indeed it seems like anything. It is awful and now really debilitating on top of all the other delightful RA issues.

    I do think you need to see an ophthalmologist because the mention of the 'thick film' makes me think of when I have had to have steroid & antibiotic drops to sort out the problem as lid cleansing etc is not sufficient for me at that point. Best wishes.

  • Hi I have the kind of same problem, every couple of months I have a watery eye that runs for 10/12 hours a day for a few days with my top lid swollen and it feels like pain behind my eye. its normally my left eye it effects. then the next stage is my eyes feel glued together and I have pink eye and it feels like grit in my eyes. I have just got over another infection and when I went to the doctors once again, this time she said she could not see an infection but told me to see my opticans so had an eye test and it turns out my eyes have got a lot worse in a year. my eye sight has gone up two prescription and had to get some more new glasses. he said instead of going to the drs go see him when I next have an infection.

    So I am hoping I will not have another infection for a while, my doctor did give me some eye drops, but the problem is not dry eyes but eyes that continue to run!

    I have not told my rumey nurse yet but will tell her next month when I see her.

    Thanks for listening.

    Carol xx

  • Hi. I have similar symptoms to you. My Optician is very good. She has prescribed several things for me which help. I use lacrilube gel which is very gungy but turns to liquid in your eyes after about 2 or 3 minutes. I also have Thealoz eyedrops that at the moment can only be bought at Opticians and can be used as and when you need them throughout the day, Blephasol to wipe eyes twice a day and an eye heat pad that is warmed up in the microwave for. The last 2 items are for blepharitis. My advice would be to visit your Optician and ask their advice. I hope you find this helpful.

    P.S. Lacrilube and Blephasol can be obtained on prescription.

  • Thanks for all your replies, I shall see my optician soon.. Nice to know i am not alone with the eye problem, drives me mad and does nothing for my make up (lol!)

  • I recommend seeing an ophthalmologist. I had this and the ophthalmologist gave me antibiotics and it went away.

  • Sorry to hear about you reoccurring problems with your eyes. I have had problems with my eyes but very different from your condition. An option would be to go to your nearest eye casualty the next time it happens I know this can be hard depending where you live. But there you will be seen by various people who specialise in this field and know what they are talking about. Or you can request a referral to an ophthalmology consultant (eyes) and hopefully get a full assessment and diagnosis. I hope this helps you and your conditions eases.

    best wishes

  • Hi

    I've been diagnosed with RA for over 6 months now and also have this awful condition with my eyes. Exactly how you describe. Currently I am using antibiotic eye drops but the recommendation is that you use them only for 2 days before contacting your GP. I haven't done that yet but the problem has eased a little. However, when I stop the drops it starts again afterwards so I'll have to look into it further. I was advised to warm the eyes with warm wet cloth in the mornings which will loosen the oily film in the eye. What with the pain, fatigue and eye problems its sometimes difficult to stay positive! Keep smiling!

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