Does rheumatoid arthritis contribute to dry eyes?
Q) I've suffered from dry eyes for a long time. I suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and had a hip replacement in 2000. I've tried all the remedies the NHS has to offer and have been on sulfasalazine and methotrexate for three years. Does rheumatoid arthritis contribute to dry eyes? Can you suggest a cure or anything to relieve the symptoms?
Gordon, Shetland (Summer 2010)
A) Dry eyes are a recognised feature (extra-articular manifestation) of rheumatoid arthritis. The rheumatoid process can cause damage to the cells which produce the moisture for the eyes and mouth. This is called Sjögren’s syndrome (Sjögren was the Swedish eye physician who described a condition that primarily affects the moisture producing cells in the eyes and mouth). At its most severe this condition can lead to damage of the surface of the eye and visual impairment so it's important to seek help. Mostly, lubricant eye drops are used but sometimes surgical solutions are necessary – these include putting a plug in the duct that drains the tears away. Lubricants can also be used for the mouth and a tablet called pilocarpine may help both eyes and mouth.
This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Summer 2010 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.
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