If you suffer from dry and irritated eyes, it’s easy to assume that these symptoms are representative of dry eye syndrome. Dry eye is often so common and chronic that it’s used to explain away any symptoms that fit the bill, including dry eyes that can’t produce enough tears for lubrication.
However, dry eyes can often be symptomatic of another problem altogether: Sjögren’s Syndrome.
This disease frequently goes undiagnosed particularly because it has symptoms that can be explained away by other diseases and problems. Sjögren’s Syndrome is the second most common cause of dry eye; it’s also a relatively common rheumatologic disorder. Despite its commonality, Sjögren’s Syndrome is difficult to diagnose because laboratory testing is highly unpredictable and unreliable. It took years for tennis champion Venus Williams, who has access to world-class healthcare, years to be diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome.
The symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome vary, and in addition to Dry Eye, can include the following:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or moistening food
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Recurrent bronchitis or other respiratory problems
- Dry nose
- Chronic sinus issues
- Dry skin
- Concentration or memory problems
With these symptoms in mind, it’s important to diagnose Sjögren’s Syndrome right away, as this disease can cause a myriad of health problems. Ophthalmologists now can use a simple in-office panel test – known as the Sjö – which has specific markers that are more sensitivity to Sjögren’s Syndrome symptoms. This panel test is often more successful than laboratory tests, meaning patients can be successfully diagnosed and experience relief with treatment.
It’s thought that up to 10% of patients who suffer from dry eye can be diagnosed with Sjögren’s Syndrome, which means it’s vital but easy to get tested in your ophthalmologist s office. At Envision Eye & Laser Center in Bowie, Maryland – also serving the greater Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, DC areas – Dr. Renee Bovelle can perform a test to diagnose dry eye patients who may be suffering from Sjögren’s Syndrome.
Once Dr. Bovelle has diagnosed a patient with Sjögren’s Syndrome, she can provide patients with specific treatments and preventative medications that can help stem the progression of Sjögren’s Syndrome. This is critical, as 4% to 5% of Sjögren’s Syndrome sufferers develop lymphoma, a serious blood cancer.
If you suffer from dry eyes, schedule a consultation with Dr. Bovelle today at Envision Eye & Laser Center in Bowie, Maryland (also serving the Baltimore and Washington DC metros). Just fill out the form in the top left corner or call 301-805-4664.