Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys glands responsible for keeping the eyes, mouth and other parts of the body moist and lubricated. Dry eyes are a common symptom of Sjogren's syndrome.
Sjogren's syndrome can develop in men and women of any age or race, but it is most prevalent among Caucasian women, usually between ages 40 and 60. The Sjogren's Syndrome Foundation (SSF) estimates that as many as 4 million Americans have the disease, and about 90 percent are women. As many as 3 million may be unaware they have the condition.
Dry eyes are such a distinctive feature of Sjogren's syndrome, yet many cases of the disease go unreported. It's estimated that 1 in 10 dry eye patients also have Sjogren's syndrome; which can take up to four years or longer from onset of the disease to get an accurate diagnosis, according to researchers.
Causes Of Sjogren's Syndrome
Sjogren's syndrome is one of the more common autoimmune disorders. In these diseases, a person's white blood cells attack his or her own tissues and organs, damaging them.
Why abnormal immune responses develop and destroy a body's own tissues is not clearly understood. Ordinarily, our immune system recognises our own body parts as "friendly," and becomes activated only to fight and destroy "foreign" substances or harmful organisms, such as viruses.
Abnormal immune responses may be inherited, or they may be related to prior viral or bacterial infections.
Sjogren's syndrome can occur alone (primary Sjogren's syndrome) or it can occur along with other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, celiac disease or scleroderma (secondary Sjogren's syndrome).
Contact lens discomfort, blurred vision, a gritty or burning sensation and light sensitivity symptoms can occur with Sjogren’s syndrome.
If you experience any of these symptoms it is recommended to see your eye doctor who may perform a number of tests to confirm a diagnosis of Sjogren's syndrome. In one common test (called a Schirmer's test), the tip of a small strip of test paper is inserted under your lower eyelid to measure the amount of tears you produce over a certain period of time, the test lasts approximately 5 minutes.
Another test may include the use of a dye that colours your tears; your eye doctor will then examine your eyes with a microscope to see how quickly your tears evaporate and whether any dryness-related damage has occurred to your cornea or conjunctiva.