Treatments for Patients with Sjogren’s Syndrome and Dry Eye

Sjogren’s syndrome dry eyes

Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks your body’s tissues and cells. This disorder can affect numerous parts of your body, but the two main symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth. Patients may also experience other symptoms, such as joint pain or swelling, swollen salivary glands, dry skin or skin rashes, chronic fatigue, or a persistent dry cough. Experts aren’t always sure what causes a person to develop Sjogren’s syndrome, but risk factors appear to include age over 40, being female and also having a rheumatic disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

Many people can manage Sjogren’s Syndrome by using over-the-counter eye drops and drinking more water. However, in many cases, something more is needed. Here are some of the most common solutions for this disease.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes for Sjogren’s Syndrome Patients

There are several things you can do on your own to relieve your symptoms, such as:

  • Using over-the-counter preservative-free artificial tears. These special eye drops, and eye lubricants can help reduce the discomfort associated with dry eyes.
  • Increasing humidity. Upping the humidity in your home and minimizing exposure to blowing air can help reduce dryness in your eyes and mouth.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking can irritate the eyes and mouth and cause them both to dry out, so quitting or avoiding this habit may help.
  • Consuming more fluids. Drinking water frequently will naturally help keep your mouth moist.
  • Stimulating saliva flow. Sucking on hard candy or chewing sugarless gum can help increase the production of saliva. 

Medications Sjogren’s Syndrome

There are different types of medications used to treat Sjogren’s Syndrome. These include medicines that:

  • Reduce inflammation. If your dry eye symptoms are moderate to severe, you may benefit from prescription eye drops that decrease eye inflammation, therefore reducing symptoms. These medications include cyclosporine and Lifitegrast.
  • Increase saliva production. If you have a lot of trouble with your mouth being dry, a medication such as Pilocarpine or Cevimeline can boost the production of saliva and, sometimes, tears as well. These medications do have potential side effects such as sweating, flushing, and increased urination.
  • Address specific complications. Sjogren’s Syndrome can cause certain complications in some patients, such as the development of arthritis symptoms or yeast infections of the mouth. If you have secondary problems related to Sjogren’s, then you may need medications designed to treat those issues specifically.
  • Treat systemwide symptoms. Because Sjogren’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder, drugs that suppress the immune system may be helpful in some patients.

Surgery for Patients Diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome

There is a minor procedure that some doctors recommend to individual patients with Sjogren’s syndrome. This procedure is called punctual occlusion and involves sealing the tear ducts to stop them from allowing the tears to drain from your eyes. Silicone or collagen plugs are inserted into the ducts to help preserve tears and keep your eyes better lubricated, and more comfortable.

Scleral lenses for Patients Diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome

Recent research has demonstrated that one of the most promising systems for alleviating the pain caused by the worst dry eye ocular surface conditions is the scleral lens. These lenses are custom made for each patient and are fitted in a way to vault the cornea and maintain a constant reservoir of fluid between the lens and the cornea to ensure that it remains hydrated. This protects the ocular surface from the environment and blinking friction induced by mechanical rubbing of the eyelids on the ocular surface. In eyes suffering from extreme ocular surface disease, scleral lenses have been successful in eliminating pain and light sensitivity They have been reported to improve the integrity of the corneal epithelium, vision-related quality of life and visual acuity in patients with ocular surface disease. In clinical practice, there was a reported significant improvement in quality of life in patients who could not tolerate corneal gas-permeable contact lenses.

If you have been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome – or you are simply experiencing dry, irritated eyes – we can help. Contact us to make an appointment and discuss your options.