Sjogren’s Syndrome, pronounced shœ̅-ˌgren(z), is an autoimmune disease that affects an estimated 400,000 to 3.1 million adults, most of whom are women. Essentially, the immune system turns on itself, attacking the body instead of protecting it. Two primary symptoms of the condition are dry mouth and dry eyes, the latter of which can lead to light sensitivity.
Very little is known about the disease, including what causes Sjogren’s, but doctors are learning more every day. There appears to be a genetic component in at least some cases, but the research is ongoing. If you have been diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome or suspect you have it, this information may help you find the treatment and medical support that you need.
What is Sjogren’s Syndrome?
Approximately ten times more women than men have Sjogren’s Syndrome and most of them are older than age 40. The condition is caused when the immune glands are affected, causing the mouth and eyes to become dry. This can lead to a number of problems including burning, itching, grainy, watery, or red eyes. Often photophobia is a significant component.
Other symptoms of Sjogren’s may include:
- Tingling or numbness in toes or fingers
- Swollen glands
- Stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints
- Trouble urinating
- Dry skin
- Chronic dry cough
There is no cure for Sjogren’s Syndrome and treatment is done on a case by case basis. It is treated by addressing the symptoms which accounts for the varied approaches doctors have for helping their patients. It most commonly affects the salivary glands and tear glands.
The condition usually acts as a secondary diagnosis with primary diagnoses including rheumatoid arthritic and systemic lupus erythematosus.
Dry eyes are a very common problem with Sjogren’s Syndrome and a significant contributing factor to a delay in or failure to obtain a proper diagnosis. Many cases never get diagnosed because it is often mistakenly thought to be other conditions. Many people will brush it off, attributing the issues to other causes of dry eye such as computer overuse or lack of sleep. This of course can delay an accurate diagnosis. Typically, it takes several years for a person to be diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome.
Symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome
Dry eye is not the only symptoms of Sjogren’s Syndrome, but is in fact part of the larger issue that is inflammation of certain glands such as those that manage the production of saliva and tears as well as other bodily fluids:
- Dry eyes
- Dry mouth
- Vaginal dryness
- Dry skin
These symptoms can lead to a domino effect. Dry mouth can cause gum disease, oral thrush, and tooth decay as well as difficulty swallowing which can make it hard to eat and speak. Dry eyes can cause significant eye discomfort, sensitivity to light, and if left untreated, damage to the eye and impaired vision.
More severe cases of Sjogren’s Syndrome often lead to more troublesome, sometimes serious symptoms including:
- Fatigue (common)
- Inflammation of blood vessels
- Muscular pain
- Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness
- Concentration difficulties
Certain environmental factors can exacerbate symptoms. Heating and air conditioning can make dry eyes and mouth much worse, as can smoke and wind. It can also make air travel very uncomfortable.
While complications of Sjogren’s Syndrome can arise from the common symptoms, in some cases the inflammation caused by this disease can be severe and lead to:
- Lung problems like bronchitis and pneumonia
- Impaired kidney function
- Liver conditions such as cirrhosis or hepatitis
- Cancer of the lymph nodes
- Peripheral neuropathy
These complications are less common but can occur. As with any disease, the best course of action is to stay vigilant and see your doctor regularly. Any new or changing symptoms should be reported to the medical professional who is treating you.
Sjogren’s Syndrome and Light Sensitivity
The dry eye symptoms that Sjogren’s Syndrome causes can be very troublesome, leading to corneal damage, blurred vision, and pain in the eyes as well as light sensitivity.
Most people are desperate to get some relief. Axon glasses help block the sun’s harmful rays so that you can do more without worrying whether or not your photophobia will flare up. Other things you can do to ease your dry eye symptoms (and, in effect, possibly decrease your light sensitivity) include:
- Blink. When you are using your smartphone, computer, or other device or watching television, practice blinking once every 10 seconds – that’s about six times a minute.
- Avoid smoky environments. Don’t smoke and stay away from areas that are smoky, especially if they are closed with little or no ventilation.
- Protect your eyes. Wind, drafts, and breezes can make eye dryness words so wearing glasses, particularly those with side protection, do offer some protection.
- Use lubricating eye drops. Your doctor can help you find a good eye lubrication that doesn’t cause irritation.
- Use a humidifier. Keeping your home and/or work environments from getting too dry can help keep your eyes from getting too dry.
How One Person Treated Sjogren’s Syndrome and Light Sensitivity
Keep in mind that avoiding light is not advised. Don’t wear sunglasses indoors in an effort to ease your photophobia. Axon glasses offer protection from painful light without affecting the eye’s natural ability to dark adapt. Choose from several stylish, comfortable frames and get the relief from light sensitivity that you need.
Kristen H. gave our glasses a go and this is what she had to say,
“I bought these glasses because my eyes are very dry from Sjogren’s Syndrome. The dryness has caused light sensitivity to fluorescent lights and computer screens. I was really skeptical when I bought these that they would help my eye pain (from squinting to keep out the bright lights). They do help so much with the light sensitivity! I am glad that I decided to purchase a pair.”
Relief is a beautiful thing.
You don’t have to suffer from light sensitivity from Sjogren’s Syndrome. Light doesn’t have to be your enemy. Shop our glasses for light sensitivity and come out of the dark.
Do you have Sjogren’s Syndrome? Can you relate to anything mentioned above? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
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