Do you have Dry Eyes and a Dry Mouth?

3 September 2014  |  Eyecare Partners

If yes, then you may be suffering from Sjögren's Syndrome, an often missed disorder which causes dry eyes and dry mouth.

Some people who suffer from dry eyes, do so because they have an underlying auto-immune disorder.

Sjögren's Syndrome is one such disorder that is frequently under diagnosed as it’s symptoms often mimic other conditions. Sjögren's can therefore often be missed or misdiagnosed.

The condition affects approximately half a million adults in the UK and tends to be more common in those over forty.

90% of those affected are women and famous sufferers include Cardiff City footballer, Stephen McPhail and Venus Williams.

What Are the Symptoms of Sjogrens?

People with Sjögrens typically suffer not just with dry eyes but a dry mouth too. Other parts of the body can be affected too including lungs, joints, vagina and the gastro-intestinal tract.

Sjögrens symptoms include:

  • dry eyes
  • dry mouth / difficulty swallowing
  • dry nasal passages
  • joint pain / muscle ache / fatigue
  • dry itchy skin
  • abdominal pain
  • painful intercourse

What goes on in the body in Sjögrens?

In Sjogrens, the body's own white blood cells mistakenly attack its moisture producing glands, causing damage to them. This causes a decrease in the level of secretions such as tear and saliva that are produced.

What causes Sjögrens?

The cause of Sjögren's isn't fully known. Certain genes put people at higher risk of the disorder, but it appears that a triggering mechanism, such as infection with a particular virus or strain of bacteria, is also necessary.

Are there any other connected conditions?

Yes,in 50% of cases.

Approximately half of the time Sjögren's occurs alone, but in the other half it occurs in the presence of another autoimmune connective tissue disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.

When it occurs on its own, the condition is referred to as being Primary Sjogrens.

When it occurs in conjunction with another rheumatic condition, then it is referred to as secondary Sjögrens.

What is the Treatment?

Treatment is aimed towards managing the symptoms and effects of Sjogrens. There are a range of treatments for dry eye as listed below:

Dry Eye Treatment of Sjogrens

In terms of eyes, sufferers will have dry eyes which can cause not just discomfort, but also leave the eyes more susceptible to picking up infections.

Dry Eyes in Sjögrens is due to tear deficiency and as such lubricating drops and gels are prescribed.

In addition to drops, the tear drainage ducts can also be plugged, which conserves the persons own tears.

Plugging the drainage ducts is a quick and painless procedure and is done using punctum plugs, which are small 2-3mm posts. The plugs are inserted into the drainage holes in the nasal corner of the lid margins.

The plugs are made of silicone and once in place can’t be felt or seen. They stay in place until they are removed or fall out of their own accord. Long term the drainage holes can be cauterised to permanently block them.

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