Why Kids With Arthritis Need Regular Optometrist Visits

While juvenile arthritis cases are mainly dealt with by paediatric rheumatologists, there are other health specialists you'll need to incorporate into your child's treatment plan. One important one is the optometrist. Children with arthritis are susceptible to a range of eye problems. Here are just three reasons why regular optometry visits are important.

Medications Can Cause Eye Problems

If your child is currently being medicated for their juvenile arthritis, it's important to know that many of those medications can cause eye problems. Taking corticosteroids (a type of anti-inflammatory drug), for example, can lead to blurry vision, glaucoma, and cataracts. Another medication, the anti-rheumatic drug hydroxychloroquine, can cause macular degeneration, affecting visual sharpness and colour vision. Other medications may also have vision-related side effects too. Seeing an optometrist regularly will ensure that such problems are spotted early enough to solve, either through optometric treatment like glasses or alterations of your child's medication prescriptions.

Some Children Develop Dry Eyes

Whether it's because of the arthritis itself or a comorbid condition like Sjögren's syndrome, dry eyes aren't uncommon in children with juvenile arthritis. Caused by a lack of lubrication, dry eyes can feel painful, scratchy and irritated, and may lead to blurry vision. Rubbing the eyes often makes the discomfort worse and could scratch the corneas, but it can be difficult to prevent children from doing so. And, if untreated, the eyes can dry out so much that they lose protection against damage from dust and debris. An optometrist can easily diagnose dry eyes and prescribe lubricating eye drops for your child to alleviate all the symptoms of the condition.

Arthritis Can Lead to Uveitis

Uveitis is the inflammation of a layer of the eye called the uvea. Unsurprisingly, it's common in conditions that cause inflammation, like juvenile arthritis. Uveitis can start out as pain, light sensitivity, or blurred vision. For some children, it may start off with few noticeable symptoms at all. If left untreated, uveitis can be very dangerous, leading to potential vision loss, eye scarring, and other serious problems. While optometrists don't usually diagnose uveitis (that's the job of an eye doctor, known as an ophthalmologist), they can pick up on the early signs and help you get a referral to a specialist. That specialist will then be able to diagnose the condition and help you find the right treatment plan, which could include eye drops, immunosuppressant medications, or surgery.

For more information, take your child in for an eye test.