Sjogren’s Syndrome – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options
Sjogren’s syndrome can cause only mild symptoms, or it can be life-altering. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for this common autoimmune disorder.
Sjogren’s (SHOW-grins) syndrome is a systemic disorder that affects the entire body. Sjogren’s tends to affect everyone slightly differently, with no clear, predictable progression. Symptoms may worsen over time, or they may remain stable for long periods. Some patients experience very mild symptoms, while others find their symptoms debilitating. As with many diseases, early diagnosis and correct treatments are vital to preventing complications and improving patients’ quality of life.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder, which means that your immune system attacks your body’s tissues and cells. No one is sure why specific individuals develop Sjogren’s, but it appears that a combination of genes and triggering factors (such as particular viruses) are at play. We also know that individuals who develop Sjogren’s are more likely to be women than men, be over the age of 40, or have a rheumatic disease such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
When you have Sjogren’s syndrome, your immune system will likely first target the glands that produce tears and saliva. However, it can also damage other body parts, including your thyroid, liver, kidneys, lungs, nerves, joints, and skin. You may experience one, two, or more of the following symptoms:
- Dry eyes, eye infections, or corneal ulcerations
- Dry mouth, dental decay, mouth sores, and problems with chewing, taste, or speech
- Dry nose, nosebleeds, or recurrent sinus infections
- Cough or shortness of breath
- Joint or muscle pain
- Skin sensitivity
- Neurological problems, “brain fog,” or headaches
Because Sjogren’s usually affects the eyes first (and, in many patients, dry eyes and a dry mouth will be their only symptoms), many ocular treatments are available to help patients cope with eye-related symptoms and enjoy their day-to-day lives more fully. Patients can use preservative-free artificial tears as needed to keep their eyes lubricated and comfortable. Other treatments require a doctor’s advice and prescription, such as:
- BlephEx™ Treatment. An eye care practitioner will deep-clean and exfoliate your eyelashes and eyelids to reduce biofilm and debris during this treatment. Doing so promotes overall eyelid health and mitigates long-term tear duct damage.
- Advanced Zocushield™ Cleanse. Zocushield™ is an in-office deep cleanse using special Zocusome micelles that gently clear oil, residue, and debris from the eyelid to give the eyes and skin a healthier, more natural appearance.
- Regener-Eyes. Regener-Eyes is a natural biologic preservative-free ophthalmic solution that contains a range of growth factors, chemokines, and cytokines to promote optimal cell function and overall eye health.
- Cequa/Xiidra. Cequa and Xiidra are two drugs that the FDA has approved for people with dry eye. These medications both contain active ingredients that treat dry eyes, helping to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
- Eysuvis/Flarex. These medications are corticosteroids used short-term to reduce inflammation and other dry eye symptoms when a patient has an acute flare-up.
- Siccasan gel. Using Siccasan gel at bedtime may help minimize symptoms. Be sure to follow the package directions for proper application to get the maximum benefit from the medication.
- Punctal plugs. Punctal plugs are tiny plugs inserted into the drainage part of the eye by an optometrist. This treatment helps your eyes retain water so that your tears can work more effectively.
At Weston Contact Lens Institute, we can address the dry eye symptoms that you may be experiencing with Sjogren’s syndrome. We’ll perform a dry-eye workup to give us the information that we need to determine your best treatment options to protect your current and future eye health and help keep you comfortable. We’ll listen to your concerns and answer all your questions so that you are confident with your treatment decisions.
Contact us today to schedule your consultation and get started on your dry eye treatments as soon as possible.