Sjögren’s syndrome is a chronic autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s moisture-producing glands, leading to dryness in the eyes, mouth, and other body parts. Dry eye is a common symptom of Sjögren’s syndrome, which can cause irritation, redness, and blurred vision. If you have Sjögren’s syndrome, it is crucial to managing your dry eye symptoms to prevent complications such as corneal ulcers and vision loss.
What Causes Dry Eye in Sjögren's Syndrome
In Sjögren's syndrome, the immune system mistakenly attacks the glands responsible for producing aqueous fluid, leading to dry eye. Tears keep the eyes lubricated, help to remove dirt, and protect the cornea. Reduced tear production can cause discomfort and even damage to the eyes. When there is a lack of tears, the eyes can become dry, irritated, and inflamed.
Symptoms of Dry Eye in Sjögren's Syndrome
The symptoms of dry eye in Sjögren’s syndrome may vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- Burning sensation in the eyes
- Redness and inflammation
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Gritty or sandy feeling in the eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
Managing Dry Eye When You Have Sjögren's Syndrome
Managing dry eye when you have Sjögren's syndrome involves a combination of self-care measures, medication, and lifestyle changes. Here are some tips on how to manage dry eye effectively:
1. Use Artificial Tears
Using artificial tears is the first line of treatment for managing dry eye when you have Sjögren’s syndrome. Artificial tears are over-the-counter eye drops that mimic the composition of natural tears, providing moisture and lubrication to the eyes. You can use them as often as needed to ease dry eye symptoms. Some artificial tears contain preservatives that can irritate the eyes, so it is essential to choose preservative-free options if you plan to use them frequently.
2. Practice Good Eye Hygiene
Good eye hygiene can help reduce the risk of eye infections and other dry eye complications. Here are some tips on how to maintain good eye hygiene:
- Wash your hands to reduce the risk of infection
- Avoid touching your eyes with your fingers
- Clean your eyelids with a warm, damp washcloth to remove debris and crusts
- Avoid using eye makeup that can clog the oil glands in the eyelids
- Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air
3. Prescription Medications
If self-care measures are ineffective in managing dry eye when you have Sjögren’s syndrome, your doctor may prescribe medications to ease symptoms. Some common medications include:
- Cyclosporine eye drops: These eye drops help reduce inflammation and increase tear production.
- Lifitegrast eye drops: These eye drops block a molecule that causes eye inflammation.
- Steroid Eye Drops: Doctors prescribe steroid eye drops to reduce inflammation, but only for short-term treatment because of the risk of side effects.
4. Punctal Plugs
If artificial tears and prescription medications do not relieve your symptoms, your doctor may recommend punctal plugs. Punctal plugs are small, biocompatible devices inserted into the tear ducts to block drainage and keep the tears on the eyes’ surface longer.
Surgery may be necessary in severe cases of dry eye when you have Sjögren’s syndrome. Some surgical options include:
- Salivary gland transplantation: During surgery, a small piece of the salivary gland from the lower lip is transplanted into, the lower eyelid to increase tear production.
- Amniotic membrane transplantation: This procedure involves transplanting a piece of amniotic membrane onto the eye’s surface to reduce inflammation and promote healing.
Managing dry eye when you have Sjögren’s syndrome is essential to prevent complications and maintain good eye health. The first line of treatment is using artificial tears, practicing good eye hygiene, and making lifestyle changes, such as using a humidifier. If self-care measures are ineffective, prescription medications, punctal plugs, or surgery may be necessary. Working with your doctor to develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs is crucial.