Dry Eyes? It May Be More Serious Than You Think

Are your constantly dry eyes driving you nuts? If you also have an autoimmune disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, you may have a disease known as Sjogren's syndrome. Here's what you need to know.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sjogren's Syndrome?

Autoimmune diseases are those diseases that cause the body to attack itself for some reason. The white blood cells that are supposed to protect you instead turn against you, but the exact cause is not known. With Sjogren's syndrome, the body attacks the glands that keeps the body lubricated. This includes the tear ducts in the eyes, the salivary glands in the mouth, and the Bartholin's glands, which keep the vagina lubricated and moist. The condition is most prevalent in Caucasian women.

In addition to having dry eyes, mouth, and vagina, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, vaginal infections, and a sore mouth and tongue are also common symptoms. The eyes may have a gritty sensation, be sensitive to light, and look red and irritated. You may also notice you have crusty and red eyelids, which is a condition called blepharitis.

How Is Sjogren's Syndrome Diagnosed?

You may be given a diagnostic test called a Schirmer's test. The lower eyelid is pulled forward and a piece of special test paper is inserted. It is checked after five minutes to see how much tears were produced. Another common test is where dye drops are put into your eyes, and the doctor then examines them underneath a microscope to look for damage to the corneas as well as the conjunctiva. This is the clear part that covers your eyes and some of the inside of your eyelids. There is also another test that diagnoses Sjogren's Syndrome called Sjö. It tests the eyes as well as looks for antibodies in the bloodstream.

How Is Sjogren's Syndrome Treated?

Sjogren's Syndrome first affects the glands, but it can eventually cause damages to your other organs, such as your lungs, kidney, and liver.

For your eyes, prescription eye drops are prescribed to help keep the eyes lubricated. Additional medications and treatments may be required if the lack of lubrication has caused damage to your eyes.

Prescription drugs are also used to increase saliva in the mouth as a perpetually dry mouth is not only irritating, it can contribute to dental cavities. Be sure to see your dentist regularly and brush and floss after every meal. Other medications may be prescribes as needed for the other associated symptoms of Sjogren's syndrome.

Contact a vision clinic, like West Bay Eye, for more help.