About 2.1 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis and suffer from symptoms such as pain, swelling and stiffness. Fortunately, most people with rheumatoid arthritis will not develop eye problems, but some will.

Rheumatoid arthritis may be more likely to affect your eyes if it isn't under control, or it's at an advanced stage. If you've had rheumatoid arthritis from a young age or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, you may also be more prone to developing an eye problem.

According to the Mayo Clinic these are the eye problems you could develop if you have arthritis:

• Dry eyes. This is more likely if you also have Sjögren's syndrome, a condition that affects about 30 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis. Dry eyes can lead to corneal abrasions and infections. The condition can be treated with lubricating eye drops or artificial tears.

• Cataracts. Inflammation from rheumatoid arthritis can cause clouding of the lens in the eye. Using topical corticosteroid drops to treat other arthritis-related eye diseases may also lead to cataracts. Symptoms include cloudy, blurred or dim vision. Cataracts must be surgically removed.

• Glaucoma. If your eyes become inflamed it can inhibit the eye's drainage system, which can lead to glaucoma, or even blindness. Symptoms to watch for include blurred vision, eye pain and gradual loss of vision. Treatments include prescription eye drops, oral medications, or even surgery.

• Episcleritis. This is inflammation of the membrane that covers the white part of the eye, or sclera. It causes eye discomfort and redness. You can treat it with anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroid eye drops, or eye lubricants.

• Scleritis. Caused by inflammation of the sclera, scleritis can affect the front or back part of the eye. It may cause severe pain and redness of the eye. At advanced stages, scleritis can lead to permanent eye damage and loss of vision. Symptoms include redness of the eyes for several days and eye pain. If it affects behind the eye, redness and pain may or may not occur. Scleritis may be treated with corticosteroid eye drops and aggressive anti-inflammatory medications.

• Uveitis. This is inflammation and irritation of the uvea, the layer of the eye between the sclera and retina. It is more commonly associated with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (also called juvenile idiopathic arthritis), but can be a problem even if you develop RA as an adult. Also called iritis, uveitis may cause blurred vision, eye redness, floaters in the eye, and sensitivity to light. Common treatments include corticosteroid eye drops, drugs to dilate the pupils, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Even though eye problems are rare among people with rheumatoid arthritis, they can occur. If you're experiencing symptoms such as eye pain or redness, or blurred vision, you should see your rheumatologist and ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Early treatment is essential to protecting your eyes from more serious damage.