Sjogrens Syndrome

Symptoms of Sjogrens Syndrome

Sjögrens Syndrome is a disease where the body begins to destroy the parts of the eye that produce tears, the lacrimal glands. It is known as an auto-immune disease, and leads to dryness, irritation and infection of the eyes. The condition is more common in women of middle age, affecting around 4 million people per year.

The body naturally produces molecules called antibodies which are responsible for fighting infections within our bodies. In auto-immune diseases, antibodies are made that destroy parts of us. In the case of Sjögrens Syndrome they destroy our lacrimal glands. This causes symptoms such as dry, red eyes, irritated skin and dry mouth. Patients who suffer from Sjögrens Syndrome may have other auto-immune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or immune deficiency.

Eye test for Sjogrens Syndrome

There are a few diagnostic tests used in the diagnosis of Sjögrens Syndrome. These are blood tests, the Schirmer tear test and also some radiological procedures. Blood tests can be used to detect the antibodies that destroy our lacrimal glands in the blood. The Schirmer tear test uses filter paper placed under the lower eyelid to measure the tear production in the eye. Less than 5mm in 5 minutes can be indicative of Sjögrens Syndrome. Finally a procedure to monitor tear production and drainage can be used, whereby a radiological dye can be introduced into the eye and then monitored. If the dye accumulates in specific areas, this can indicate Sjögrens Syndrome.

Treatment for Sjogrens Syndrome

The treatment for Sjögrens Syndrome is not yet very specific. It concentrates on symptomatic relief and supportive treatments. Many different treatments are advocated, such as the use of artificial tears to keep the eye lubricated. Some opthalmologists can insert small plugs to retain tears within the eyes. It is sometimes necessary that drugs such as steroids are used to try and prevent further damage to the eye.

People who suffer Sjögrens Syndrome are likely to have symptoms for the rest of their lives. Sometimes problems may occur directly due to Sjögrens Syndrome, such as organ impairment. However with the correct symptomatic relief patients may experience few problems.