Uveitis

What it is: Inflammation of the uvea, the vascular layer of the eye, which is sandwiched between the retina and the sclera.

What you may notice: Pain, redness, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. If not controlled, uveitis can lead to vision loss.

Seen with: Juvenile arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis and Behçet’s disease.

What you can do: Keeping your disease under control can help to minimize your risk, but if you notice symptoms of uveitis, contact your doctor right away. A corticosteroid eye drop is usually the first-line treatment. If it doesn’t help enough, your doctor may prescribe an oral corticosteroid or inject the eye with a corticosteroid. If an infection is the cause, antibiotics may be needed.

Retinal Vascular Occlusion

What it is: Small blood vessels that feed the retina, or light sensing layer of the eye, become blocked or backed up, akin to what happens during a heart attack or stroke.

What you may notice: Vision loss, like a curtain coming over the eye. If an artery is blocked, loss of vision may happen suddenly and come and go. If a vein is backed up, vision loss may be more gradual.

Who it affects: Those with lupus, scleroderma, Behçet’s disease, sarcoidosis, polyarteritis nodosa and primary CNS angiitis

What you can do: If an artery has been blocked, damage may be permanent and there is currently no known treatment to restore vision. If a vein is backed up, laser surgery may help reduce swelling and restore vision.

Glaucoma

What it is: A group of eye conditions that result in damage to the optic nerve, which can cause vision loss. High pressure inside the eye is usually, but not always, the cause. The eye has a pump that keeps the eye inflated and circulates nutrients, explains Dr. Garg. “Fluid that’s made by the pump has to be released from the eye through a pressure relief valve. If you get inflammation in the valve, the eye pressure can go up and cause glaucoma.”

What you may notice: Eye pain, vision that’s blurry or has blank spots, rainbow-colored halos around lights. In its early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms.

Who it affects: Those with ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and other types of inflammatory arthritis. Glaucoma also can be a side effect of corticosteroid therapy for arthritis.

What you can do: Regular eye exams can identify the problem early and improve prognosis. Treatment for glaucoma involves one or a combination of different eye drops to reduce pressure in eye. If those aren’t successful, surgery can be used to increase the flow of aqueous fluid from the eye and lower pressure.

The best way to prevent glaucoma related to corticosteroid therapy is to work with your doctors to minimize corticosteroid use, taking the lowest doses for the shortest time possible to produce desired results.

Cataracts 

What it is: “If you have inflammation in the eyeball, that inflammation will cause the lens, which should be crystal clear, to start to become cloudy. And that’s a cataract,” says Dr. Garg.

What you may notice: Cloudy or blurry vision, poor night vision, colors that seem faded

Who it affects: Those with [inflammatory] conditions that affect the inside of the eye,” says Dr. Garg. In particular, genetic variations common in people with RA, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis increase the risk of eyeball inflammation. Taking oral or topical steroids also increases the risk.

What you can do: Cataracts can be treated with surgery, in which the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.