It is estimated that nearly four million Americans suffer from Sjögren’s syndrome. Unfortunately, many people are unaware that they even have it. If you do have this condition, you are probably already aware of its effects on your eyes. But if you haven’t been diagnosed with it, there are a few things you should know if you suspect you might have Sjögren’s.
What is Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren’s is an autoimmune disease that can develop on its own or with other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or celiac disease. It is not entirely clear what triggers autoimmune diseases to develop and start attacking one’s organs and tissues. They are often hereditary or may begin after having chemotherapy or having a viral or bacterial infection. It attacks and destroys glands in your body that are responsible for keeping your eyes, mouth and other areas of your body moist and lubricated.
Common Symptoms are Often Eye-Related
Most of the common symptoms of Sjögren’s syndrome are eye-related, with dry eyes being at the top of the list. One out of ten dry eye sufferers may have Sjögren’s but not know it because so many people experience chronic dryness in their eyes.
Other Sjögren’s eye-related symptoms to be aware of include:
- Blurred vision
- Burning or gritty sensation in the eye
- Light sensitivity
- Eye infections
- Corneal ulcerations
- Discomfort wearing contact lenses
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to tell your eye doctor. He or she can perform tests to see if you have Sjögren’s and whether it has damaged your eyes.
Treating Sjögren’s Eye Dryness
Currently, there is no cure for Sjögren’s syndrome. But it is possible to manage the chronic dry eye symptoms that it causes. Your eye doctor may prescribe artificial tears, lubricating eye drops, or ointments that can restore your eyes’ moisture lost as tears evaporate too quickly.
Your eye doctor may also look to see if you are also experiencing meibomian gland disfunction (MGD), which may also occur with Sjögren’s. This condition decreases the level of oils in your tears. Treating MGD could help prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly.
Early Detection is Crucial
People of any age may develop Sjögren’s syndrome and be unaware of it until permanent damage is done to their eyes. Caucasian women between 40-60 years of age are most at risk. Therefore, early detection is crucial. A yearly comprehensive eye exam can detect changes in your eye health and help preserve your vision. It is also important to discuss any problems with dry eyes with your eye doctor or sudden changes in your vision as soon as possible.
Contact Valley Eyecare Center at (602) 955-2700 to schedule your next eye exam today.