Have your eyes been feeling overly dry lately? Perhaps they are itchy, slightly red, and giving you blurry vision. If you've ruled out common causes like wearing contacts for too long or exposure to allergens, it's important to consider the possibility that you're suffering from a condition called Sjogren's syndrome. This auto-immune condition often presents as dry eye as one of its first symptoms. Here's a closer look.
What is Sjogren's syndrome?
Sjogren's syndrome is a condition in which your immune system starts attacking the mucous and fluid-producing tissues in your face. This includes your lacrimal glands, which produce your tears, as well as your salivary glands, which make your saliva. Have you noticed that your mouth has been dry lately, too? The symptoms may be more connected than you think.
Who is at risk for Sjogren's syndrome?
Anyone can develop this condition at any age. However, you are at a higher risk if there is a history of auto-immune diseases, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis in your family or if you have been diagnosed with another auto-immune condition in the past.
How is Sjogren's syndrome treated?
The condition is irreversible. Once the damage is done, it's done, and there's really no known cure for Sjogren's syndrome, either. However, there are medications that will slow the progression of the condition and prevent further damage to your lacrimal glands and salivary glands. Methotrexate is one such common drug.
Your doctor may also recommend treatments to fight the specific symptoms of the disease. Your eye doctor may insert punctual plugs into your tear ducts. These plugs will slow down the absorption of the tears on your eye's surface, keeping your eyes more moist. There are also medications like Restasis that promote increased tear production. For dry mouth, your dentist may prescribe a special rinse to keep your mouth more moist.
How is Sjogren's syndrome diagnosed?
If you think you may have Sjogren's syndrome, it's important to see your eye doctor or your general physician as soon as possible. Blood tests may be used to test for antibodies that are common in the blood of patient's with Sjogren's. Your doctor will also look for evidence of inflammation in certain tissues around your eyes, as this can be an indication of the disease. X-rays may be taken to visualize any damage to your lacrimal glands and salivary glands.
If you've been suffering from chronic eye dryness, be sure to talk to your eye doctor about Sjogren's syndrome. If you do have this disease, the earlier you start treatment, the better. For more information, contact professionals like Terrezza O.D. & Associates, P.A.