Western University of Health Sciences is seeking people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis to participate in a clinical study to determine how the disease affects your eyes.

Candidates for the study must be 18 or older. Evaluations will take place at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, 400 North Pepper Ave., Colton, Calif., and at WesternU’s Patient Care Center, 795 E. Second St., Pomona, Calif. Participants will be compensated $25 at the end of the study.

This interprofessional study is being conducted by College of Optometry faculty members Jasmine Yumori, OD, FAAO, and Robert Gordon, OD, FAAO, DPNAP, and College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific faculty members Michael Finley, DO, and Dat Trinh, DO, with a research grant from Allergan Pharmaceuticals.

The goal of the study is to evaluate the prevalence of dry eye in rheumatoid arthritis patients, which could potentially lead to new treatments.

“We want to contribute to science and help improve the quality of life for patients with rheumatoid arthritis,” Finley said. “As we understand the science better, there may be new therapies created to reduce the suffering from chronic dry eyes and provide more efficacious treatment options.”

Participants will undergo a medical evaluation, take a blood test to measure the levels of inflammation in their body, and then receive an extensive evaluation of their tear layers and the front surface of their eyes. These assessments can be completed in one visit or separately.

“If it’s determined you have dry eyes, we will give you a set of recommendations to reduce the symptoms that you have from the disease, and hopefully ameliorate the long-term effects of dry eyes,” Gordon said. “Dry eyes don’t sound like they’re a very serious health issue, but it can cause scarring on the cornea and loss of vision.”

Participants will not receive treatment, but they will receive free testing, and the information will be shared with their rheumatologist eye care practitioner.

“We will educate them about what they can do to help keep their eyes healthy,” Yumori said.

Participants can then contact the WesternU Eye Care Center for potential follow-up treatment that goes beyond the use of artificial tears.

“There are new treatments available for patients with dry eye to relieve their symptoms, which can range from mild discomfort to significant pain and fluctuating and continually blurred vision,” Gordon said. “There are new medications that have been approved by the FDA that can actually treat the disease, and significantly reduce symptoms and the frequency with which drops have to be used. There are also minor surgical procedures that may improve the retention of tears in the eye.”

For more information, contact the study coordinator at the WesternU Eye Care Center at 909-706-3899, or email eyecarecenter@westernu.edu.