Juvenile Arthritis & the Eye
How JIA Affects the Eye
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), formerly known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints in children. Many people are surprised to learn this disease can also attack the eyes.
Inflammation inside the front of the eye is called iritis. Most of the time iritis will cause symptoms of eye pain, eye redness, extreme light sensitivity, and blurred vision. When these things occur, something is wrong.
Often, JIA patients have iritis with no symptoms. They do not complain of eye pain or light sensitivity. Their eyes do not appear red and if they have blurry vision they don’t mention it. Therefore, these children can have smoldering inflammation in their eyes causing significant damage before anyone knows there is a problem. This can cause life-long eye and vision complications including the formation of scar tissue in the eye, glaucoma, cataracts, and swelling of the retina.
The primary physician or rheumatologist will send JIA children for regular screening eye exams utilizing a microscope to watch for any sign of trouble. Your ophthalmologist will schedule rechecks every 3-6 months depending on the sub-type of JIA and the patient’s blood work. If iritis occurs, it can usually be controlled with either eye drops or systemic medications.
See a Pediatric Ophthalmologist
If your child or someone you know has JIA, make sure that they are getting the regular eye exams they need to watch for any sign of trouble.