When you're diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, your body's joints aren't the only thing at risk. Your eyes may be, too. Here's why you should consider seeing an eye doctor after being diagnosed with this condition.
What Rheumatoid Arthritis Is
It's important to remember that rheumatoid arthritis, specifically, is an autoimmune disorder. The easiest way to explain this is that you have a certain type of cells in your body that act as defenders against foreign invaders. White blood cells attack viruses, bacteria, and anything else that's invasive and doesn't belong in your body. However, sometimes these white blood cells can malfunction and start attacking healthy cells that are exactly where they belong. This is what causes joint damage; the immune system starts targeting the cushioning in your joints and damages it, creating swelling, inflammation, and potential tissue damage.
How it Can Impact the Eyes
White blood cells can go anywhere in the body, since invaders can potentially show up anywhere. Unfortunately, this means that the damage done by autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis isn't necessarily limited to the joints, and can also impact the eyes.
When an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis targets the eyes, it's called uveitis. This is another chronic inflammatory condition that can cause tissue damage to the eyes if it's left untreated. There is no particular blood test to determine this condition, so it's up to an eye doctor to inspect your eyes and look for signs of this disease.
What You Can Do and What to Expect
The first thing you should do is to set up an appointment with an eye doctor for an examination. Rest assured that this will be a painless and simple process and can either reassure you or provide you with the treatment you need to keep this condition under control.
Your eye doctor will examine the inside (by looking through your pupils) and outside of your eyes with an ophthalmoscope. This will let them determine if there is inflammation or rogue white blood cells causing damage.
If no damage is discovered, it's a good idea to set up regular screenings with your eye doctor to make sure that that remains the case. However, if damage is found, your eye doctor can help you by treating the condition with steroid eye drops. This limits the activity of the immune system locally, ensuring that you don't have any major side effects, but also preventing further damage from being done to your eyes.
For more information about how eye care services can benefit you, speak with a local optometrist.