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How Juvenile Arthritis Affects the Eyes

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How can I tell if my child is developing eye problems related to juvenile arthritis?

Eye inflammation is usually not painful. And the eyes are not usually red as they are in conjunctivitis. So, most children with juvenile arthritis who develop eye problems do not have any symptoms.

On a rare occasion, a child might complain of blurred vision or of light bothering his or her eyes. Sometimes, a child's eyes might look red or cloudy. However, these types of symptoms usually develop so slowly that permanent eye damage can occur before any trouble seeing is noticed.

In order to detect eye problems early and prevent them from causing damage, your rheumatologist -- a doctor who specializes in treating arthritis -- will schedule frequent appointments with a pediatric ophthalmologist. That's a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating eye diseases.

What will happen during my child's appointment with an ophthalmologist?

Tell the ophthalmologist about the medicines that your child is taking. You can get the names of the medicines, the dosages, and the reasons they have been prescribed from your rheumatologist.

Before the eye exam, the ophthalmologist will put drops in your child's eyes to make the pupils dilate. The drops may burn a little, but dilating the eyes helps the doctor get a clear view inside the eyes.

To diagnose eye inflammation, the ophthalmologist uses a special kind of microscope. With it, the doctor will shine a thin beam of light into one eye at a time so he or she can view the inside of each eye. 

The doctor might also perform a visual field exam to determine if vision has changed in any way. This type of exam measures peripheral vision, meaning how far the patient can see to the side when the eye is focused on a central point.

You should carefully follow the medicine guidelines given by your child's health care provider. You should also keep all scheduled appointments with the rheumatologist and the ophthalmologist.

How often should my child have eye examinations?

The frequency of eye exams for your child will depend on what type of juvenile arthritis he or she has. It will also depend on how long he or she has had the disease and on what medications he or she is taking for treatments.

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