Wat is Sjögren’s Syndrome?
Sjögren’s syndrome is the most common auto-immune disease. In Sjögren’s Syndrome the immune system attacks and gradually destroys moisture-producing glands throughout the body, including the eyes. The disease most often arises between the ages of 40 and 60 and it is more common in women than men. Patients with Sjögren’s syndrome can have a number of symptoms, including dry eye. Other symptoms may include dry mouth, arthralgias, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and vasculitis. Millions of people world-wide have Sjögren’s syndrome.
Sjögren’s Syndrome and Dry Eyes
Approximately 1 in 10 cases of dry eye are likely due to Sjögren’s syndrome, suggesting that optometrists are on the frontline of diagnosis. The eye-related symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome can often preced the other systemic effects of the disease, optometrists are often the first to identify Sjögren’s Syndrome in a patient.
Sjögren’s Syndrome is related to both aqueous dry eye disease and evaporative dry eye disease. Sjögren’s Syndrome attacks the lacrimal glands, resulting in cell death and the undersecretion of tears, which is the hallmark of aqueous dry eye disease. Sjögren’s Syndrome patients also often have poorly functioning meibomial glands, which are meant to secrete the oily component of a healthy tear film. With less oil, the tear film evaporates faster than it should, resulting in dry eyes.
Sjögren’s Syndrome Treatment
Because there is no cure for Sjögren’s Syndrome, treatment is focusted on eliminating the dry eye disease associated with Sjögren’s Syndrome. Different treatment options are available for the two different types of dry eye disease.