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The eyes have it – eye involvement in rheumatic diseases

Posted Sep 11 2009 4:55pm


It's not widely known, but eye problems, visual impairment and even blindness are not uncommon features of many forms of arthritis and rheumatic disease.

Systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) Rare, serious condition affecting the skin, joints and internal organs

The most common complaint is dryness in the eyes. A minority of patients develop retinopathy with cotton wool spots at the back of the eyeball, retinal haemorrhages and blockage of retinal arteries.

Ocular side effects of anti-rheumatic therapy.
Most of these drugs cause no significant side effects, but cortisteroids and antimalarial drugs can have toxic effects.

Antimalarial drugs, hydroxychoroquine and chloroquine, which are used in RA, lupus and other related disorders, can lead to irreversible retinal damage and corneal opacity. Patients on these drugs have their eyes examined once a year.

Corticosteroids can lead to corneal and scleral thinning, and cataracts are common after higher doses of steroids. Raised intra ocular pressure is another common side effect.

Read More about eye involvement other rheumatic diseases

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