How Does Ankylosing Spondylitis Affect Eyes and How Is It Treated?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 1/11/2018

Ask the experts

How does ankylosing spondylitis affect the eye, and how is it treated?

Doctor's response

Patients with ankylosing spondylitis can develop inflammations of the iris of the eye. This is referred to as iritis. Recurrent attacks of iritis can affect either eye and is characterized by eye pain and redness with increased pain when looking at bright lights. In addition to the iris, the ciliary body and choroid of the eye can be inflamed and this is referred to as uveitis.

Iritis and uveitis can be serious complications of ankylosing spondylitis that can damage the eye and impair vision. Urgent consultation with an ophthalmologist may be required. Treatment can involve cortisone eye drops (such as pred forte) and other drops to rest the muscles of the iris. Additionally, high doses of cortisone medication by mouth and/or injected directly into the involved eye can be required.

Finally, it should be noted that iritis and inflammation of the spine can occur in other forms of arthritis, such as reactive arthritis (formerly Reiter Syndrome), psoriatic arthritis, and the arthritis of inflammatory bowel disease.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018